Special Session on Insurance
"Bush and his successor, Charlie Crist, agreed Wednesday to call a special session of the Legislature [on January 16], but it was uncertain what they would -- or could -- do to ease the crisis."
The coordinated announcement by Bush, Crist and the Republican leaders of the two legislative chambers also appeared intended to stave off criticism over legislation signed by Bush earlier this year that opened the door for insurance companies to raise their rates. Democrats had been demanding a special session by next month."Special session will seek ways to ease soaring homeowner insurance rates". See also "Special session called to address insurance situation", "Legislators to talk insurance", "Special session to cover insurance", "Special session on insurance approved", "Will lawmakers cut your insurance rates?", "Legislature to meet for January special session on insurance" and "Legislature Targets Insurance".
The Palm Beach Post notes that there were "very few GOP legislators to oppose the insurance legislation. The Democrats are still pushing their idea of a statewide pool to cover the first level of insurance. Some Republicans now are talking about a sales-tax increase that would subsidize a massive catastrophe fund and allow all hurricane rates to come down." "Change rules for Citizens during insurance session". The St. Pete Times observes that the "Legislature and the state task force chaired by Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings are too dominated by insurance interests to be creative enough to develop solutions bold enough to meet the challenge." "On insurance, go for bold".
Rather than taking personal responsibility for their actions, Republicans are running for cover: "Lawmakers accuse Citizen's Insurance of misinterpreting the law"
CD 13 Update
"Wednesday, [the auditors] reviewed the scripts to make sure they matched the ballot data retrieved from Election Day. They found no script errors in the Buchanan-Jennings race. Workers then began reviewing hours of videotape in search of any mistakes made by the mock voters Tuesday. When they quit for the day, they had made it through about 10 percent of the tape. ... More testing is scheduled for Friday." "Under video review: Re-enacted voting". See also "Initial voting machine audit shows marginally different results".
The Washington Post has a good overview of developments thus far in "Vote Disparity Still a Mystery In Fla. Election For Congress".
Meanwhile, the influential Larry Sabato, Director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, argues that
Congress needs to find out exactly what happened to the 18,000 undervotes in the 13th District race between Republican Vern Buchanan and Democrat Christine Jennings. Buchanan was certified the winner by 369 votes, but the unusually high undervote has prompted Jennings to challenge the results in court.And, on the potentially explosive issue of Congress involving itself in the CD 13 race, it seems Dems are not
"We need to know what happened to those 18,000 votes," Sabato said.
anxious to inject themselves into the legal dispute between Jennings and Buchanan."Congress to look at voting problems".
Federal law gives Pelosi, as House Speaker, the power to seat Jennings over Buchanan, citing the disputed election. But political experts say such a move would be toxic politically for her relationship with the GOP.
When Democrats sat a Democrat over a Republican in a disputed election in the early 1980s, the bad will from the move lingered for years afterward and made it hard for the parties to work on anything, said former U.S. Rep. Bill Paxon, R-N.Y.
Sabato said he doubts Pelosi would want to start the Democrats' first week in power in a dozen years in such a partisan way.
Pelosi's spokesman said the California Democrat is watching the legal process in Sarasota, but isn't prepared to comment further on what she will do on Jan. 4, the first day of the new Congress.
As an aside, in "Polk Had Many Fewer Undervotes Than Sarasota County", we see that
Totaling the outcomes from the three congressional districts found inside Polk, Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards said there were about 5,000 undervotes. That’s a useful comparison to Sarasota County, which has only one district, because the total number of voters who went to the polls in both counties was nearly identicial, Edwards said.If "it is no harder to undervote in Polk County than in Sarasota", why the difference in the number of undervotes?
Polk County uses paper ballots, on which voters darken ovals and then submit them to an optical scan counting machine. The machine is set to spit back undervotes only if an entire ballot is left blank, Edwards said. An undervote in an individual race does not get questioned. So it is no harder to undervote in Polk County than in Sarasota, which uses touchscreen machines without a paper receipt.
Polk’s system, purchased for the 2000 election, has operated remarkable free of problems since then.
Underwritten By Lobbyists
"The Republican Party of Florida is picking up the tab for the retreat, the cost offset by contributions by lobbyists who are underwriting some of the dinners." "Florida Republicans meet at coastal resort".
"One of the key architects of Florida's sweeping ban on gifts from lobbyists has officially joined their ranks. Former state Rep. Dudley Goodlette of Naples, who left office this month due to Florida's term-limit law, has been hired by Southern Strategy Group as an executive-branch lobbyist and 'strategic advisor' on legislative issues." "Goodlette, champion of ban on gifts, to become lobbyist".
Not So Fast On Barreiro
Barreiro touted as head of Juvenile Justice". Some, however, have "qualms about his potential selection".
A "Return to the Paper Era"?
"When hanging chads and Palm Beach County's "butterfly ballot" put the kibosh on punch-card voting six years ago, Florida's elections chiefs ventured boldly into the new frontier of paperless electronic voting."
Now they are preparing - reluctantly - for a possible return to the paper era."Doubt dooms paperless voting, election chiefs say". See also "Voting chiefs 'diss' paper, but see inevitability".
Amid the uproar over blank electronic votes in a tight congressional race in Sarasota County and the prospect of "paper-trail" legislation from Washington and Tallahassee, elections supervisors meeting here this week say paperless voting appears to be on its way out.
In Sarasota County, where the community "voted to replace the now-controversial electronic touch-screen elections system with voter-verified paper ballots', the County is struggling with implementating the change. "To seek a better voting system".
Meanwhile, "Election experts see positives in Sarasota ordeal" ("It will be an impetus for surer procedures to confirm touch screen tallies and for creating standards for designing easy-to-follow ballots, some say.")
Wingnut Wars; Mel AWOL
It is funny to see the wingnuts go after each other; in this case Jebbie and a fellow right winger (who one suspects agree on the vast majority of things). Recall that Republican Colorado Congressman
Tancredo, who has championed building a fence along the border with Mexico, pointed to Miami as an example of what could happen to the United States if immigration policies are not tightened. He said of Miami in an interview with a conservative online news site, "You would never know you're in the United States of America. You would certainly say you're in a Third World country."Jebbie's less than vigorous response included the following:
Bush said the remarks were "naive" ... ."Gov. Bush calls congressman's insult 'naive'". However, it was subsequently reported that Jebbie actually had the guts to actually call Tancredo "a nut" (though not a "wingnut". The Tallahassee Democrat, in "¡Viva Bush!", praises Jebbie for having the raw courage to actually disagree with a fellow right wing Republican who egregiously insults Florida's largest City.
Of course, what's really happening here is Republicans trying to figure out how to keep the fruits of their "Southern Strategy" (to wit, the neo racist GOP base) and at the same time halt Democratic Party inroads into the Hispanic vote; stated differently, "the Republicans have a problem with Hispanics. Just as in the 1990s the party was viewed as the mean party that hated all immigrants, today the Republicans struggle to find a middle ground among the anti-immigration conservatives and the growing Hispanic voter base." It is no secret that on election day "Democrats in Florida and across the country gained ground among Hispanic voters. If the trend continues, it could have far-reaching political implications." "Hispanic voter shift: anomaly or new rule?".
Pollster John Zogby wrote yesterday that
Republicans took a drubbing among Hispanics this year. From George Bush's 40% share in 2004, the Republicans managed only to garner only 30% this year. Just think what that means in the context of huge growth in the numbers Hispanic voters. For 2008 that could mean a decline of 1.3 million Hispanic Republican votes in elections that have been won and lost by mere hundreds and thousands of votes. The impact could be particularly significant in such key competitive states like Arizona, New Mexico, Florida, and Colorado, all of which include large Hispanic populations."The Battle for the Latino Vote".
One key factor in Hispanic disillusionment for Republicans has been the party's right wing pushing for a tough position on illegal immigration. In the Zogby International post-election poll of 903 Hispanic adults, only 29% polled said they feel that the Republicans are better equipped to handle immigration. Twice as many favored the Democrats. More ominously for the GOP, only 30% said the Republicans represent the values they hold dearest.
The initial (hysterical) GOP response was Bushco dragging "Karl Rove's Florida Frankenstein" into the public spotlight via his appointment to RNC chair.
However, one commentator points out that "if Congress fails to pass comprehensive immigration reform, or if most Republicans vote against it, Hispanics will see President Bush's party as the party that looks at Hispanics as potential criminals, erects walls on the border and jokes about bullet-ridden vests taken away from dead migrants.". In such circumstances, Mel will not make a difference even if he "decided to wear a Mexican sombrero and go around singing Guantanamera for the next two years." "Tall task for Mel Martinez".
By the way, where is Mel on this? He's apparently AWOL yet again.
And We Can Still See The Sun
"The vast majority of Florida's public schools are meeting class-size reduction limits this academic year, according to figures released Wednesday by the state Department of Education. ... The class size amendment was passed through a citizen initiative over opposition from Gov. Jeb Bush. He had argued that it would be too expensive." "State: Most schools meeting class size requirements".
Remember how Jebbie hysterically claimed that "if voters actually had the gall to demand smaller classes, the cost would 'blot out the sun.'" "Voters have some nerve telling Jeb what to do".
That's our "Jeb!", wrong, yet again.
In the Meantime, Jebbie's cherished "Charter schools struggle with class size".
Has It Come To This?
I mean really, do we have to give Pruitt (a pol of dubious standards himself "(Pruitt Hides Behind Lawyer's Skirts)") massive props for doing the obvious? The Tampa Trib apparently thinks so, as it writes editorials like this: "Pruitt Makes Encouraging Stand".
"The Florida Commission on Ethics wants to require the governor and four other statewide elected officials to put their stock holdings in a blind trust before taking office to avoid potential conflicts of interest." "Blind trusts urged for leaders' stocks".
The W.D. Effect
"The former chief judge of the 1st District Court of Appeal resigned as its leader last month amid complaints about court management and personal relations among the members, according to documents obtained Wednesday through a public records request. Charles J. Kahn drew a colleague's public criticism earlier this year over his role in a decision upholding former Florida Senate President W.D. Childers' bribery conviction. Kahn denied having a conflict of interest in the case, although he is a former law partner of a close friend of Childers." "Chief resigns after other appellate judges complain".
More From The "Values" Crowd
"The state agency that pays private attorneys to represent indigent clients has been broke since Nov. 9. Its ramifications threaten to backlog an already overburdened court system statewide. Attorneys aren't getting paid and some Broward County court-reporting agencies are refusing to transcribe depositions until they get the money they're owed." "State agency runs out of money to pay lawyers representing indigents".
Pastor Rejected For Doubting That "Christ hated caring 'liberals'"
Mike Thomas explores the Rev. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of North Church in Longwood, Florida (See "Florida pastor won't take national post" and "Missed chance for Coalition"). Thomas writes that "Unfortunately, the religious right has become so closely tied to conservative Republican politics that biblical and political principles have merged. Hence, anything that might be considered a liberal political position becomes unacceptable."
That is why the Christian Coalition, which approached Hunter about leading the organization, changed its mind. The group could not accept some of his "liberal" beliefs."Pastor doubts Christ hated caring 'liberals'".
"If you care about the environment or justice or AIDS or poor people, all of a sudden you are a liberal, and liberals are the enemies," Hunter says. "The compassion issues of Christ have been tagged as liberal issues. It is the reverse of what it ought to be."
To be sure, the column is far to soft on the unholy alliance between right wing churchs and the GOP, but it encouraging to see center-right columnists even acknowledge the issue. On a related note, see "New face of the religious right".
Earlier Florida Primary?
"Florida voters were among the nation's most important in picking the new president in 2000 and 2004 - but they had no say in picking the nominees."
Florida's comparatively late primary dates meant the presidential nominees in both parties were decided before Florida voters went to the polls in mid-March."Leaders Want Pick Of Presidents". See also "Florida GOP sees big role in 2008" ("Tired of playing second fiddle to the likes of Iowa and New Hampshire in picking presidential nominees, Florida Republicans are positioning the Sunshine state to play a potentially huge role in the 2008 presidential race.")
That may change drastically in 2008 for two big reasons.
First, there is strong sentiment among state legislators, led by incoming state House Speaker Marco Rubio, to move the state's presidential primary. That could make Florida the biggest, most demographically representative state with an early primary.
Second, the state Republican Party has announced it will revive the Florida tradition of holding a presidential straw poll at its state convention next fall.