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Welcome To Florida Politics

Thanks for visiting. On a daily basis we scan Florida's major daily newspapers for significant Florida political news and punditry. We also review the editorial pages and political columnists/pundits for Florida political commentary. The papers we review include: the Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Naples News, Sarasota Herald Tribune, St Pete Times, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Tallahassee Democrat, and, occasionally, the Florida Times Union; we also review the political news blogs associated with these newspapers.

For each story, column, article or editorial we deem significant, we post at least the headline and link to the piece; the linked headline always appears in quotes. We quote the headline for two reasons: first, to allow researchers looking for the cited piece to find it (if the link has expired) by searching for the original title/headline via a commercial research service. Second, quotation of the original headline permits readers to appreciate the spin from the original piece, as opposed to our spin.

Not that we don't provide spin; we do, and plenty of it. Our perspective appears in post headlines, the subtitles within the post (in bold), and the excerpts from the linked stories we select to quote; we also occasionally provide other links and commentary about certain stories. While our bias should be immediately apparent to any reader, we nevertheless attempt to link to every article, column or editorial about Florida politics in every major online Florida newspaper.


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Previous Articles by Derek Newton: Ten Things Fox on Line 1 Stem Cells are Intelligent Design Katrina Spin No Can't Win Perhaps the Most Important Race Senate Outlook The Nelson Thing Deep, Dark Secret Smart Boy Bringing Guns to a Knife Fight Playing to our Strength  

The Blog for Monday, February 23, 2015

Rubio to New Hampshire

    "U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is heading to New Hampshire to interact directly with voters who will help determine his presidential fate." "Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to Meet With New Hampshire Voters."

    Meanwhile, "Rubio heckled at Florida book signing."

    Clown car comes to Florida

    "Ted Cruz came to Jacksonville Friday night and called out Jeb Bush on Common Core. More so than most of the other Republicans testing the waters for 2016, Cruz has taken shots at Bush over Common Core. But this time Cruz fired away at Bush in his own backyard." "Ted Cruz Comes to Florida to Attack Jeb Bush on Common Core."

    Early voting trends in Tampa

    "Election officials expect this year’s election will continue a trend that began in 2012 of more votes being cast before Election Day." "Early voting for Tampa elections begins today."

    Entrepreneurs in action

    "Ripping off your refunds: One little number fuels South Florida’s tax-fraud explosion." You can check out "a ZIP Code to see how many electronic filing identification numbers were issued by the IRS, and whether your neighborhood may fall into a hot spot for tax fraud." "Investigate Florida's tax fraud hot spots by ZIP Code."

    Jeb's family tree

    Huffington Post is "ranking the branches of an old family tree according to their respective helpfulness for the 2016 election." "Trail To The Chief: Bush Family, Ranked Edition."

The Blog for Sunday, February 22, 2015

Jeb not ready for prime time

    Dana Milbank points out that when Jeb recently "addressed the Chicago Council on Global Affairs luncheon at the Fairmont, he combined his father's awkward oratory with his brother's mangled syntax and malapropisms. Like his brother, he said 'nucular' instead of 'nuclear,' and he hunched over the lectern with both hands on it — but instead of exuding folksiness, as his brother does, he oozed discomfort."
    A top priority, he explained, is "reforming a broken immigration system and turning it into an economic — a catalytic converter for sustained economic growth."

    Presumably, he was reaching for "catalyst," but instead came up with an automotive emissions-control device.

    "As we grow our presence by growing our ability to produce oil and gas," Bush went on, "we also make it possible to lessen the dependency that Russia now has on top of Europe."

    Russia's dependency on top of Europe? It was, in addition to being backward, a delightful echo of his brother's belief that it is hard "to put food on your family."

    At another point, discussing NATO's aggressive stance in the Baltics, Jeb explained that "I don't know what the effect has been, because, you know, it's really kind of hard to be out on the road, and I'm just a gladiator these days, so I don't follow every little detail."

    Asked about the weakening of nation states in the Middle East, he admitted: "I don't have a solution. I mean, I… I… I've read articles, you know, about whether the 1915 kind of breakout of the Middle East and how that no longer is a viable deal."

    Bush, eschewing teleprompter, read his speech quickly and, during the question time that followed, leaned forward in a chair, jacket buttoned and legs spread, swigging water with Marco Rubio's gusto.

    The former Florida governor recited his foreign policy credentials, such as opening a bank office in Venezuela. He touted a Latin American free-trade agreement and noted that "where Columba and I live is going to be right in the center of the universe of that free-trade agreement."

    He can see Cuba from his house!

    Much more here: "Is Jeb Bush ready for prime time?"

    And then there's the slimy business stuff. See e.g., "Jeb Bush’s private investments in fracking dovetail with public advocacy ("The intersection between Jeb Bush’s private and public life — calls for fracking have been a part of his speeches and came as recently as last month in San Francisco — triggers questions of disclosure.")

    Indeed, when it comes to foreign relations, all Jeb, "like most of the other Republicans who may run for president, has are muscular-sounding bromides that substitute for understanding."

    Good luck with that

    "After years of neglect, Florida's "dysfunctional" mental-health system is likely to be a top priority for lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session, with both advocates and politicians calling for major reform." "Florida lawmakers to tackle troubled mental-health system."

    The best they can do

    "Former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford signaled his intentions to remain politically active Friday as he joined the board of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC)." "Will Weatherford Named by Bill McCollum to Board of GOP Group."

    "Jeb courts GOP’s economic charlatans"

    Paul Krugman: "Cranking up for 2016: Jeb Bush courts the GOP’s economic charlatans."

    "Now it looks even worse"

    The Miami Herald editorial board: "The rejection of federal funds for Medicaid expansion by leaders in Tallahassee was never a smart decision. Now it looks even worse as the feds prepare to shut down a healthcare pipeline that pours about $1.3 billion into a statewide program that aids hospitals that care for Florida’s neediest." "Another Florida healthcare crisis."

    "Lying witnesses, junk science, bogus experts, faulty memories, misidentifications and sometimes good intentions gone astray"

    Scott Maxwell is required to yet again state the obvious: "Wrongful convictions are a result of lying witnesses, junk science, bogus experts, faulty memories, misidentifications and sometimes good intentions gone astray. It's time for Florida to join the other states that have recognized this — instead of hosting more debates about the most humane way to kill people." "Change the debate: Errors show we must end the death penalty."

    It must be something other than the OUR Walmart

    If you can stomach Bloomberg's take on Walmart's recent flop on wages, here it is: "Why Walmart is increasing its everyday low wages."

    "Jeb's Brainless Trust"

    Always nice to read that "Jeb isn’t doing terribly well in the polls." More: "The numbers involving former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush are both shocking and pedestrian . . . ." Or, as James Carville puts it, they are "not very impressive . . . ."

    Perhaps that's because, as Margaret Carlson reminds us, "Jeb Bush is asking us to do the impossible — forget that he’s the son of one president and the brother of another." "The unbearable burden of being Jeb Bush."

    But is Jeb really any different? Maureen Dowd thinks not, at least when it comes to his advisors: "Jeb Bush’s Brainless Trust." Or, as the Boston Globe reports:

    Boston Globe profile revealed Bush was pot-smoking bully in prep school. New York Times found many letters to father’s White House urging help for friends. Advice to women on welfare: “Get your life together and find a husband.” Helped brother W. win presidency in Florida by 537 votes. Husband of brain-dead Terri Schiavo called Jeb “vindictive, untrustworthy coward” who put him “through hell” by interfering in her case. Miami Herald asked what he’d do specifically for black people if elected governor. Answer: “Probably nothing.” Wants path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Wife is Mexican-American whose peasant father entered United States illegally.
    "Democrats’ guide to Republicans for president."

    So much for that states rights schlock

    "The top lobbying group for Florida’s seaports wants the state to establish a marketing campaign to help lure cargo-shipping companies from major ports in other areas of the country." "Florida Ports Want Government Help Luring Shipping From New York, Georgia and Texas."

    "Fracking a Jeb Bush family affair"

    No surprise that "fracking is not just a Jeb Bush investment, but also a Jeb Bush family affair."

    Son George P. Bush, 38, was elected Texas land commissioner last year, two years after helping found Fort Worth-based FracStar Logistics, providing sand for fracking. One of FracStar's managing partners is Coral Gables-based De Soto Partners, which is co-owned by Jeb Bush and 31-year-old Jeb Bush Jr. FracStar has been renamed Proforce Energy Services.

    Jeb Bush's private equity group, Britton Hill Holdings, was established in May 2013, but his entry into the fracking boom and private equity business wasn't publicly revealed until June 2014, when it triggered a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing for managing more than $100 million.

    By then, Bush was looking increasingly like he would run for president.

    The filing showed that the pooled investment fund had raised $40.4 million from 37 investors. Bush is chairman of Britton Hill, named after the highest point in Florida and based out of his office at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. His partners include former Lehman Brothers banker Amar Bajpai, former natural gas trader David Savett and private equity executive Ross Rodrigues. Bajpai is now on the board of Inflection Energy, the Denver company he and Bush invested in.

    Bush and his partners "had more than five years consulting across various sectors, and a move into making direct investments was a natural extension," said Campbell, Bush's spokeswoman.

    "Bush's fracking investments are not the only time his private business life has overlapped with his public policy advocacy."
    His work as an education reformer coincided with his financial stake in Academic Partnerships, an online higher education company. Bush severed ties with the company late last year and his team has noted he did not invest in K-12, which has been his policy focus.

    The former governor already has resigned from various corporate boards, including Tenet Healthcare, which has a bottom-line interest in the success of Obamacare, and he ended consulting contracts as he moved fully into the presidential fray in December.

    But pulling out of ventures in which he is a partner or owner, including his fracking investments, is far trickier because Bush's name and involvement presumably is part of what drew investors.

    "Jeb Bush's private investments in fracking dovetail with public advocacy."

The Blog for Saturday, February 21, 2015

"Good luck getting Scott to ask for an investigation of himself"

    Tom Nickens writes: "Citizens, good government groups and news media organizations should not have to file a lawsuit to force someone to examine whether Florida's highest elected officials violated the Sunshine Law."
    The lawsuit is a last resort, and the [Tampa Bay] Times joined as a plaintiff with some reluctance and after much discussion among top editors. There are more direct ways to determine whether the state's top leaders violated their oath to uphold the Florida Constitution and ignored the fundamental principle of open government. But no one else will do what has to be done.

    Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs won't investigate whether there was a public meetings violation in the way Gov. Rick Scott abruptly ousted Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey. Never mind that Bailey reported to the governor and Cabinet — Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Never mind that the governor cannot hire or fire the head of FDLE by himself. Never mind that there was no public discussion, no public vote, no nothing.

    Bondi, who ought to be interested in enforcing the Sunshine Law, won't investigate. She hasn't asked the statewide prosecutor to look into it. She hasn't even responded to a letter from the First Amendment Foundation suggesting that she ask her good friend the governor to appoint a special prosecutor. (Full disclosure: [Nickens is a] member of the First Amendment Foundation's board.)

    Good luck getting Scott to ask for an investigation of himself. This governor has less regard for open government than any governor in the modern era.

    "Why the Times joined the lawsuit against the governor and Cabinet."

    "Pleasing developers and farmers"

    The Tampa Bay Times editors: "The Florida House is moving to quickly change how the state manages and preserves water that is more about pleasing developers and farmers than protecting the environment. The legislation delays the cleanup of the Everglades and puts new pressure on the water supply in fast-growing Central Florida." "House takes wrong approach on water."

    The elephant in the room

    The Tampa Trib editors look at the plans for "Shoring up Florida’s corrections system." Of course the elephant in the room is the GOP's privatization fetish.

    "Shift-based care"

    "Bill targets shift work at foster group homes."

    "The governor and lawmakers are ignoring the greatest public concern"

    The Tampa Bay Times editorial board writes that "the governor and state lawmakers still are ignoring the greatest public concern: Students, teachers and school districts simply aren't ready for next month's new assessments for the Common Core-aligned Florida Standards."

    While the governor and state lawmakers nibble around the edges, the new standardized tests are barreling toward students in a couple of weeks. Yet there has not been nearly enough careful consideration and preparation for these new assessments. Scott foolishly dropped out of the multistate consortium developing the tests and demanded that Florida obtain its own assessments in an unsuccessful attempt to silence critics of Common Core.
    "Cutting one test is not testing reform."

    Meanwhile, "Who's fringe now? Moms' testing position now mainstream."

    Scott admin gives privateers a billion dollar do-over

    "Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones announced Friday she intends to rebid contracts worth about $1.4 billion with private companies to provide health care services to the state’s 100,000 inmates." "Prisons boss aims to rebid health care contracts."

    "The announcement came amid increased scrutiny of Florida’s prison system, the nation’s third-largest, after reports of guards abusing inmates, a rising number of unexplained inmate deaths and lawsuits from investigators who claim they were retaliated against after exposing wrongdoing." "Prison chief seeks overhaul of prison health contracts."

    "Beer battle comes to head"

    "Beer battle comes to head again in Tallahassee."

    "It didn't have to be this way"

    Daniel Ruth: "For the past several weeks, as disclosures have mounted over Gov. Rick Scott's abrupt dismissal of Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey, questions have popped up about whether there is any way for voters to remove a Florida governor from office."

    The answer to that question is no.

    The issue is particularly intriguing since Attorney General Pam Bondi appears to be uninterested in pursuing allegations that the sacking of Bailey was either: A) related to the FDLE chief's steadfast refusal to allow the governor to politicize the agency; and/or B) whether Scott's actions violated the state's government-in-the-open Sunshine Laws.

    Given Bondi's Officer Krupke-esque indifference to, you know, actually performing her duties as the state's chief legal officer, it would appear Scott is going to get away with thumbing his nose at proper protocols and legal niceties.

    It didn't have to be this way.

    "Florida voters have no way to recall Gov. Rick Scott, Cabinet."

    Run, Marco run!

    "Sen. Marco Rubio is in the midst of a comeback, fueled by a self-assured stand against easing relations with Cuba, some savvy campaigning in Iowa and a meeting that impressed well-heeled donors." "As a White House hopeful, Sen. Marco Rubio on the comeback trail."

    Meanwhile, "Rubio faces stiff odds in reversing Obama’s policy toward Cuba."

    "A raw, public tussle"

    Jeff Henderson: "Just when things can’t get any worse for Democrats in Florida, two of their leading figures are going at each other in a fight that won’t help them keep the state in their column come 2016." "Hillary Clinton Needs to Step In as DWS and John Morgan Bicker."

    This "raw, public tussle between U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and trial attorney John Morgan over a medical marijuana ballot initiative prompted the Florida Democratic Party chairwoman to declare herself 'disappointed.'" "Feud between Wasserman Schultz and millionaire donor exposes Democratic fault lines over medical pot."

    Jeb staggering around within the margin of error in Florida

    It is no secret that Florida's claptrap media desperately to prop up dear Jeb; after all, it would be far more interesting - at least for Florida's chattering classes - if Jebbie became the GOPer nominee. Consider this stretch of a column: "Jeb could ruin Hillary’s political run."

    That's of course true . . .

    . . . except for the polling part. Consider the latest Q poll:

    - FLORIDA: Clinton 44 - Bush 43

    OHIO: Clinton 47 - Bush 36

    PENNSYLVANIA: Clinton 50 - Christie 39

    A first look at three critical swing states, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, for the 2016 presidential election is good news for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who tops possible Republican contenders in every matchup, except Florida, where she ties former Gov. Jeb Bush, and Ohio, where she ties Gov. John Kasich [who of course is not a declared candidate], according to a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released today [2/3/2015].

    Overall, Gov. Bush runs best of any Republican listed against Clinton, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds. The Swing State Poll focuses on Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania because since 1960 no candidate has won the presidential race without taking at least two of these three states.

    Clinton's favorability rating tops 50 percent in each state, while Republican ratings range from negative to mixed to slightly positive, except for Bush in Florida and Kasich in Ohio.

    Of three "Native Son" candidates, measured against Clinton only in their home states, only Ohio Gov. John Kasich gives the Democrat a good run, getting 43 percent to her 44 percent. . . . [with Clinton ahead] 49 - 39 percent over U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, the Native Son.

    "Clinton Leads In Pennsylvania, Ohio; Ties Bush In Florida, Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll Finds."

    Jeb is staggering around within the margin of error? In the latest version of his home state? And after years of Florida's traditional media telling Floridians how popular Jeb is.

    So, Jeb will have to fight to even hold his own in his "home" state, while at the same time "Bush does not do well in either Ohio or Pennsylvania. In Ohio, he trails Clinton 36 percent to 47 percent, and in Pennsylvania he trails her 35 percent to 50 percent." "Q Poll: Hillary, Jeb tied in Florida."

    NRA "gins up faux hysteria"

    Daniel Ruth: "Leave it to the National Rifle Association's Marion Hammer, the Martha Stewart of Smith & Wesson, to gin up faux hysteria over the debate to allow concealed weapons on the state's college campuses by suggesting ISIS is practically advancing on the gates of Florida State University's Doak Campbell Stadium." "College campuses no place for concealed weapons."

    "Storm clouds gathering"

    Nancy Smith writes that, if "DOE Commissioner Pam Stewart doesn't see storm clouds gathering, she isn't looking up." "Nearly Duck-and-Cover Time for DOE's Pam Stewart."

    Weekly Roundup

    "Weekly Roundup: Legislature Gets Moving as Session Approaches."

The Blog for Thursday, February 19, 2015

"Jeb storms Tallahassee"

    "Supposedly, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was in Tallahassee this week for a summit on education."
    But between the fundraiser he held in town, another fundraiser later in the week in New York City and the release of the first chapter of a book chronicling his time as governor through emails he sent and received, it looked a lot like the soft launch of a presidential campaign.
    "Jeb Bush, the 'non-candidate' for president, storms Tallahassee."

    "Pie in the sky"

    "Sending water south from Lake Okeechobee to meander naturally through the Everglades -- the 'flowway' endorsed by the Everglades Foundation as the only way -- 'will never happen, it's pie in the sky,' admitted one of Florida's leading voices on environmental policy." "Eric Draper: Lake Okeechobee to Everglades Flowway 'Will Never Happen'."


    "Legislators roll out bill to snuff damages for tobacco victims."

    Good to know: "Who's who in the tobacco wars? Chapter One."

    Testing run wild

    "Florida should scrap a new 11th-grade standardized test and reduce the number of other exams it gives students, the state's education commissioner said Thursday — a move that critics of testing said doesn't go far enough. Gov. Rick Scott said he would work with the Legislature to enact needed laws to cut back on state-mandated testing." "Education chief, governor agree to pare back school testing." See also "Florida Education Saturated in Tests, Say Rick Scott and Pam Stewart."

    Feed 'em enough liquor

    "A wide-ranging alcohol measure that would allow shoppers to pick up fifths of Jack Daniel's in the same stores where they buy groceries passed its first House test Wednesday over the objection of Florida's largest grocer."

    Members of the House Business & Professions Subcommittee voted 9-4 to advance the measure (HB 107), which would remove an 80-year-old state law that requires liquor stores to be stand-alone facilities.

    The bill has drawn opposition from independent liquor stores, some county sheriffs and Lakeland-based Publix. Meanwhile, support for the measure has come from retailers including Wal-Mart and Target.

    "Publix, Wal-Mart at Odds over Separating Liquor, Groceries."

    Florida political targets

    "The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) unveiled its top targets for 2016 on Wednesday with two members of the Florida delegation on the list. . . . The DCCC is targeting two Florida Republicans -- U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and David Jolly -- in the early stages of the 2016 election cycle." "NRCC Going After Gwen Graham and Patrick Murphy in Florida."

The Blog for Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"Making a career of staying close to Scott"

    "Rick Swearingen, the governor’s choice to lead the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, has made a career of staying close to the governor; now he has returned the favor by requiring the governor’s security team to report directly to him." "Florida’s top cop has earned governor’s favor."

    Same old Jeb


    "Jeb Bush to say he’ll be his ‘own man’ on foreign policy in Chicago speech." More: "Jeb Bush noting difference with former president brother."

    Backyard gun ranges

    The Tampa Trib editors think Tally should "Leave regulation of backyard gun ranges to local officials."

    "Far from ‭'‬The Party Train‭'"

    "To political groups,‭ ‬community activists and homeowners' associations,‭ ‬All Aboard Florida is about as popular as the subject of Obamacare to Republicans and Gov. Rick Scott to Democrats." "In‭ ‬2015,‭ ‬All Aboard Florida is Far from ‭'‬The Party Train‭'."

    "Poaching Pa. jobs"

    Steve Bousquet: "Now that Pennsylvania is run by a Democrat, Fla. governor considers it fair game." "Scott sets sights on poaching Pa. jobs."

    "Rubio occupies an odd spot"

    "Even as he turns his eyes to early caucus and primary states like Iowa and Nevada, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., occupies an odd spot in the early stages of the 2016 Republican presidential contest." "Marco Rubio Holds an Odd Space in the 2016 Republican Field."

    "Cabinet aides could be called to testify"

    "Cabinet aides could be called to testify in a lawsuit, amended Monday, seeking to end possible Sunshine Law violations in Tallahassee." "Cabinet members kept in dark on public discussions by their own aides."

The Blog for Monday, February 09, 2015

FlaBaggers break bread with SoFla GOPers

    "The top Republican Party leaders from three South Florida counties are joining forces Saturday with a tea party activist known for incendiary comments she has directed at other Republican leaders." "South Florida Republican leaders to break bread with controversial tea party leader."

    Florida leads nation in Obamacare enrollment and re-enrollment

    "Florida is leading the nation in enrollment and re-enrollment in the Affordable Care Act, with 1.3 million people signed up as of Jan. 23. Enrollment has been brisk in Flagler County, too." "Gripes Aside, 6,000 Palm Coast and Flagler County Residents Enrolled in Obamacare as Deadline Approaches."

    "A cold-hearted plutocrat"

    "Mitt Romney opposed the government's rescue of U.S. automakers. So did Jeb Bush."

    Both worked in finance and backed the Wall Street bailout. Both are advocates of tax cuts that Democrats contend only benefit the wealthy and big business.

    While the first actual votes of the next presidential campaign may be a year away, Democrats already are drawing such comparisons between the former Florida governor and the GOP's 2012 White House nominee — and they don't consider them flattering.

    Democrats are unwilling to let Bush define himself as a reformer who aims to close the gap between the rich and poor, so they are trying to paint him as this campaign's Romney. The ex-Massachusetts governor struggled in 2012 against criticism related to his work in private equity and his portrayal by President Barack Obama's allies as a cold-hearted plutocrat.

    "Dems Paint Bush as Romney 2.0."

    The best they can do?

    The FlaGOP is getting desperate: "Florida Democratic Party leaders have officially shut down Leslie Wimes' growing and increasingly active Democratic African-American Woman's Caucus." "FDP 'Racist Mentality' under Tant Won't Stop Black Women's Caucus."

    New tests worry school districts

    "Florida's new standardized test for students will be mostly online, replacing traditional pencil and paper exams with more complicated computer-based questions." "New computer-based state tests worry school districts."

    Jeb rally on the taxpayers' dime

    "The Jeb Bush-backed Foundation for Florida’s Future will be taking its case to Tallahassee Tuesday to talk accountability and school choice for Florida’s schools. The half-day event, 'Keeping the Promise: A Florida Education Summit,' will convene the state’s top lawmakers to discuss heavy issues facing the education system."

    But the summit will also feature some of the biggest names in Florida politics talking educational legislation and policy: Bush, Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Andy Gardiner, and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli are all scheduled to give remarks.
    "Jeb Bush, State Legislators to Talk Education Reform in Tallahassee."

The Blog for Sunday, February 08, 2015

Rubio is not opposed to citizenship, just wants to make it "virtually impossible"

    Politifact Florida is playing word games this morning. They write that it just isn't fair for DWS to claim that would-be-preznit Marco "was for immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship before he was against it;" indeed, they question the veracity of a claim of flip-floppery on Rubio's part.

    Politifact points out that, with Marco Rubio, R-Fla., considering "a bid for president, Democrats are attacking him on his signature issue: immigration. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, had this to say about her fellow Floridian:"

    “Marco Rubio needs to first figure out which way the wind is blowing when it comes to committing on his position on any given issue,” said the Democratic National Committee chair. “He was for immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship before he was against it. It is really unfortunate that he has chosen the most politically expedient path on issues that matter the most to people here in Florida.”
    "Has Rubio backtracked?"
    We asked a few experts on immigration policy if Rubio is now “against” immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship.

    “There is no substantial policy difference,” said Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute. “Sen. Rubio’s current position on handling the illegal immigrant population is very similar to his opinion in 2013. The only difference is that now Sen. Rubio wants several piecemeal bills rather than one comprehensive bill — a stylistic rather than a substantive change.”

    However, Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, which advocates for a path to citizenship, says Rubio’s new approach is no tiny tweak.

    “From the perspective of those of us working on immigration reform from day one, the idea of piecemeal approach is another excuse not to get to the piece that makes Republicans uncomfortable, which is legalization or a path to citizenship,” he said. “I don’t think retreat to piecemeal process is a small concession, I see it as a huge problem.”

    If Wasserman Schultz’s “point is his new position makes a path to citizenship virtually impossible, I would agree with that statement,” Sharry said.

    Our ruling

    Wasserman Schultz said that Rubio “was for immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship before he was against it.”

    The 2013 Senate bill which Rubio co-sponsored to overhaul our immigration system included a pathway to citizenship for certain illegal immigrants, albeit one with significant hurdles. After that died, Rubio said he still favored immigration reform, but that it’s only chance was through piecemeal bills. In his book, Rubio outlined specific steps for illegal immigrants to obtain legal status, and after many years eventually pursue citizenship.

    There is a kernel of truth to Wasserman Schultz’s claim, though, because some immigration advocates say Rubio’s piecemeal approach greatly reduces the chance that Congress would ever get to the point of addressing residency and citizenship.

    So, what is Politifact Florida's conclusion? You guessed it: they rate DWS's
    claim Mostly False.
    "Wasserman Schultz: Rubio now against immigration reform."

    BaileyGate heats up

    The Miami Herald editors argue that the "scandal over firing of FDLE chief requires independent probe." "Too smelly to ignore."

    Michigan wingnuts rally around the "Jeb!"

    "Ken Braun: Michigan Democrats revealed outsized fear over Jeb Bush visit." Meanwhile, "Democratic effort to define Jeb Bush starts with Mitt Romney."

    "Blunder of the Year?"

    Joe Henderson: "The impact of 60 characters can be substantial. That’s all Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn used from the 140 keystrokes Twitter allows to get across his view that Hillsborough County School Board members who voted to fire Superintendent MaryEllen Elia are (paraphrasing here) twits."

    “‘Nuff said. School Board elections in 2 years. Just saying.”

    He linked to a Washington Post blog by education writer Jay Matthews headlined “Blunder of the Year?” Matthews based his opinion of Hillsborough’s “senseless and catastrophic” move on Elia’s strong national reputation and the fact he interviewed her two years ago.

    "Buckhorn’s school board tweet illustrates the big divide." See also "School board does nothing pretty well."

    "Children, spouses, siblings and fraternity brothers"

    "Even for South Florida, where absurd news events are routine and the sheriff went to prison for corruption, the spate of judicial scandals has raised serious questions about whether the arrests in Broward are a bizarre coincidence or underscore a larger systemic problem. In a county where the judiciary is known for old-school nepotism and cronyism, and judges have been caught smoking marijuana in a park and found drunk and partly naked in a hotel hallway, some lawyers find themselves wondering: At what point do isolated instances of misconduct point to something bigger?"

    On Wednesday, WPLG, an ABC affiliate, citing anonymous sources, reported that a Broward family court judge was under federal investigation on suspicion of allowing a now-convicted Ponzi schemer to influence a case.

    And this month, a former judge in Broward was disbarred for exchanging 949 phone calls and 471 text messages with the prosecutor during a death penalty case. Yet another judge was recommended for removal in April after being accused of cheating clients and a co-counsel in the settlement of a civil suit she handled as a private lawyer a decade ago.

    As it turns out, bad behavior by judges has become distressingly common across Florida in recent months. Judge John C. Murphy in Brevard County is on leave after he was caught on video this month threatening a public defender, who later accused the judge of punching him in the head. In the Keys, a judge who was replaced on the bench after dozing off told a local news reporter that Ambien made him hallucinate about “ ‘Fantasia’ and the dancing brooms.” Another stepped down because a blogger exposed a sexually explicit profile the judge had posted on a gay dating site.

    But Broward — a heavily Democratic county of 1.8 million people with many judges who are the children, spouses, siblings and fraternity brothers of other judges and some of the region’s most powerful people — seems to be ground zero for allegations of judicial misconduct. The system’s critics say that is because Broward has a highly politicized and clannish culture that is known for protecting its own, which has led some in the judiciary to feel invincible, even as they preside over a county court system that produces the state’s highest exoneration rate.

    "Here Comes the Judge, in Cuffs - In Broward County, Fla., Spate of Judges in D.U.I. Arrests."

    A Sun Sentinel guest columnist writes that the "firing of one of Broward County's DUI judges by the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission is a start to cleaning up a Broward bench that has become a national embarrassment." "Broward judiciary getting needed cleaning."

    Second amendment Stoopid

    "“I’m So F— Sorry”: In 911 Call of AK-47 Shooting, Regret and Worries of Going to Jail."

    Actually, a "lap dog and pony show"

    Joe Henderson writes that "Scott opened Thursday’s much-anticipated Cabinet meeting at the Florida State Fairgrounds with a startling admission. Of his ham-handed decision to dismiss Florida Department of Law Enforcement chief Gerald Bailey, Scott said, 'It’s clear in hindsight that I could have handled it better.'"

    Watching all this at the back of the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center was Alex Sink, the former state chief financial officer who lost a close race to Scott in 2010. She happily answered questions from reporters about the meeting. Obviously, she is not the most neutral source on this subject, but that doesn’t mean what she had to say should be automatically dismissed.

    And for Sink, it comes down to this: “The governor breaks the law and gets away with it.”

    It got a little surreal at this point. As Sink spoke, Attorney General Pam Bondi, a dog lover, was walking down the center aisle holding a rescue dog and looking for a volunteer to give the animal a new home. Bondi eventually got within a few feet of Sink about the time she was saying, “Our attorney general is a total enabler of this governor. ... It’s an embarrassment.”

    Given the setting inside an equestrian center and with Bondi’s lovable pooch center stage, it was official: We had ourselves a real dog and pony show.

    Sink said firing Bailey this way broke the state’s constitution, which requires the heads of 10 state agencies to report to the Cabinet. Removing the leader of one them takes approval from at least two of four Cabinet members.

    “Someone needs to control this governor and his staff,” Sink said.

    At that point, a TV reporter asked Sink what made her qualified to speak on this subject since she was, in the reporter’s words, a “two-time loser” in runs for high office. She kept her cool, looked toward the front where the Cabinet meeting was still going on, and said, “I’m the only one in this room who has ever sat in one of those chairs.”

    "Scott says he could have handled mess better — we know, we know."

    Oh noes - not another "Republican bad girl"

    "Gov. Rick Scott’s chief of staff is a 32-year-old practitioner of brass-knuckled politics who gets wide leeway." "The power behind Gov. Rick Scott."

    The last we heard of that other "Republican bad girl", who liked her politics "rough," she was in a spot of trouble.

    "Florida faces a pivot point"

    "Florida faces a pivot point in its nation-leading drive to hold public schools accountable via high-stakes testing." "Milestone moment in high-stakes testing."

    International medical treatment tourists?

    "Palm Beach County is known for its sand and surf, but its state-of-the-art surgical centers could soon be drawing international tourists looking for medical treatment and a sun-filled vacation on the side." "Visit Florida, and have surgery in Jupiter."

    Privatization follies

    "Reports on inmate deaths weren’t regularly turned over to the state by private companies handling prison health care, as required, and medical exams showing whether inmates were injured by guards were missing in 2013 and 2014, documents obtained by The Palm Beach Post." "Private health firms withheld details of some inmate deaths."

    "Cabinet and governor must conduct official business in the public eye"

    Politifact Florida: "State sunshine laws, specifically Article I, Section 24 of the Florida Constitution and state statute 286.011, says the Cabinet and governor must conduct official business in the public eye. That means any time decisions are made, the quartet must perform official actions on the public record."

    When it comes to Bailey’s departure, there’s no provision outlining how the FDLE commissioner will be removed, only that he "shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor and Cabinet." (We also need to mention that this is not the case for all officials. Removing the director of the Office of Insurance Regulation, for example, does have a clear process defined.)
    "As for a replacement, the governor nominates a person and the Cabinet is supposed to discuss it and votes on it at a public meeting. State statute 20.201 says the head of the FDLE "shall be appointed by the Governor with the approval of three members of the Cabinet and subject to confirmation by the Senate." The Cabinet confirmed Scott’s pick of Swearingen as Bailey’s replacement at the Jan. 13 meeting."
    Bondi suggested the staff knew about Bailey’s ouster outside of the public meetings, without Scott’s knowledge. If that’s the case, courts have ruled that too could violate the Sunshine Law. It’s not appropriate or permissible to use staff to get around the requirements to conduct public business in public, courts have said.
    "Examining Florida's Sunshine Law in wake of Gerald Bailey controversy."