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Welcome To Florida Politics

Thanks for visiting. On a semi-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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The Blog for Thursday, December 21, 2006

Jebbie Ignored DCF Warnings and Lies About It

    Today's Florida political news and punditry.

    Jebbie Ignored DCF Warnings and Lies About It

    "At the urging of Gov. Jeb Bush, lawmakers will meet in an emergency session next month to provide up to $18-million in beds and services to help clear local jails of the mentally ill." "Session is called to solve DCF crisis".

    Jebbie, while you were cutting intangibles taxes for your wealthy friends, you were repeatedly warned about this impending crisis, and you did nothing; indeed, you slashed the funding requests that would have .

    Let's us put this in its proper context (and kudos to th eOrlando Sentinel for calling Jebbie on this):

    For five years, the Department of Children & Families has asked for the money to start more community-based programs for the mentally ill.

    Gov. Jeb Bush slashed every request -- in one year by 95 percent -- even as DCF pointedly said the services could help keep the severely mentally ill out of jail, according to an Orlando Sentinel analysis of agency records.
    So, Jebbie moves only because "DCF is under fire in courtrooms around the state for its inability to quickly transfer mentally incompetent inmates out of jail and into treatment." And, "Jeb!" flat out dissembles on whether he had plenty of warning; as noted, in making the budget requests the jebbie rejected, "DCF pointedly said the services could help keep the severely mentally ill out of jail". Bush now says
    Speaking earlier this week, Bush said neither his office nor DCF could have predicted the "explosion" of mentally ill inmates but that both responded when the problem reached a crisis point.
    "Money denied as mentally ill crisis mounted".

    Jebbie's "Halo Intact"

    Notwithstanding incompetence like that described above, Jebbie's poll numbers remain high (88% of Florida GOPers think Jebbie is a "good" or "great Governor" Q Poll released yesterday) and the media is filled with stories like this: "Jeb steps out with halo intact"

    See also "Poll: Gov. Bush remains popular as he leave office", "Gov. Bush Makes Grade In Poll" and "Poll: Bush still popular as he leaves".

    CD 13 Testimony Ends

    ES&S presented its evidence yesterday: "Confusing ballot design probably caused the high rate of undervoting in the District 13 congressional race as well as other races across the state, an elections expert testified Wednesday."

    An inconsistent layout of the electronic touch-screen ballots used in Sarasota County as well as Charlotte, Sumter and Lee counties appear to have caused voters to skip certain races, said Michael Herron, a government professor at Dartmouth College who specializes in election irregularities.

    Herron testified on the second day of a hearing in Leon County Circuit Court in which Democrat Christine Jennings and a group of voter plaintiffs tried to persuade Judge William Gary to force Election Systems & Software, the maker of Sarasota County's electronic voting machines, to surrender the computer code in those machines for analysis. ES&S is fighting to keep the code secret.

    Wednesday marked the end of testimony in the hearing, in which Gary might not rule before the weekend. Attorneys in the case have until midday Friday to submit final written arguments.
    "Undervote Blamed On Ballot". See also "Judge to decide if voting code is trade secret", "Sarasota voters likely confused, expert says" and "Professor: Ballot confused voters".

    Read the "Notice of Contest" here.

    The Daytona Beach News-Journal urges an end to "secret software". ""What's more important to you: Knowing that your vote is counted, or knowing that the company that sold the county voting machines is able to keep its trade secrets private? ... the case should sound as a clarion call for elections officials in Florida: No more secret software, and paper ballots as a safeguard when machines go wrong." "Question for Florida".

    In the meantime, "Democrat Christine Jennings formally asked the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday to intervene in her fight to claim the 13th Congressional District seat, saying all Sarasota voters deserve to have their votes count." "Jennings seeks House's help". See also "Jennings files protest in House", "Jennings presses election challenge in Congress and the courts" and "Disputed Sarasota race is appealed to Congress".

    Raw Political Courage

    Grubbing for votes:

    With Fidel Castro’s health waning, Gov. Jeb Bush, Gov.-elect Charlie Crist and other federal and state officials reaffirmed their support of the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba in hopes it will lead to the communist government’s downfall upon his death.

    "The hour is upon us and the time is now," U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., told supporters of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy political action committee at the group’s annual luncheon.
    "U.S., Florida officials renew support of Cuban embargo".

    Take a look at this piece at dKos: "Stop the Press[es]: Mel Declares Jeb! Cuban"


    "Two ex-attorney general workers on Crist's staff".

    "FCAT or bust."

    "If Florida really is serious about giving teachers financial incentives to work harder, it might begin by listening to a few of those miracle workers first."

    Once again, though, education commissioner John Winn has driven performance pay into a standardized ditch. His bumper sticker might as well read: "FCAT or bust."

    The latest meltdown, oddly enough, is with an effort called STAR (Special Teachers Are Rewarded). Well-intentioned lawmakers wrote the program into an appropriations bill last spring mainly as a way to block Winn from an administrative fiat called E-Comp.

    Winn had managed to unite teachers, principals, superintendents and school boards together in collective disgust over E-Comp, which aimed to hand out teacher bonuses based almost entirely on Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores. Now, he has managed the same feat with the legislative alternative. ...

    Lawmakers had intended to allow districts to consider performance measures that go beyond the FCAT, but they put Winn in charge of approving or rejecting each STAR plan. Yet as the end-of-the-year deadline looms, only a handful of the state's 67 school districts have been approved.

    "There's wide agreement among all the education stakeholders that we need to rethink the current salary system," says Jim Warford, Winn's former K-12 chancellor who now heads the Florida Association of School Administrators. "But again we find ourselves with another missed opportunity because of the lack of leadership in the Department of Education and their failure to work collaboratively with districts to build consensus."
    "Teacher pay trap".

    Insurance Fix

    "Florida voters aren't convinced the state should solve its insurance woes by wading further into subsidizing the hurricane-battered industry, a new poll shows." "Voters weigh in on insurance woes".


    "Iraq a year away from 'point of no return,' Nelson says".

    Johnson in Trouble?

    "A treasurer for former state Rep. Randy Johnson, R-Celebration, could be hit with more than $12,000 in fines after a Florida Elections Commission investigation of Johnson's campaign spending." "Randy Johnson's treasurer comes under scrutiny".

    Friendly Divorce?

    "Ousted Florida prison chief James Crosby and his ex-wife are being accused of divorcing solely to protect his retirement assets in a lawsuit filed by the state." Recall that this matter arose out of one of the many outsourcing scandals during Jebbie's tenure: "Crosby signed an agreement to plead guilty to taking kickbacks from a subcontractor this summer." "State accuses former prison chief, wife of fraud in lawsuit".


    "Inspired choice". See also "New DCF boss to tackle huge challenge hands-on".

    And this is interesting, Butterworth is "a supporter of limited adoptions by gay couples. ... He said he has not discussed the matter with Crist, who has said he supports the current law in Florida, one of the only states to ban gay adoption. Crist had previously said that he had no opinion on the matter." "Butterworth supports gay adoption".

    Cuban Broadcasting Investigation?

    "Rep. William Delahunt has called for a congressional investigation into the U.S. Office of Cuban Broadcasting, following its decision to air anti-Castro programming aimed at Cuban audiences on local Spanish-language TV and radio stations." "U.S. Rep. wants investigation into broadcasting office".


    "President signs measure extending sales tax deduction on federal returns".


    "Ousted Orlando Commissioner Ernest Page was sentenced to 31/2 years in prison Wednesday for trying to profit from his position on the City Council." "Ex-Commissioner Page sentenced to 3 1/2 years on corruption charges".

    Gallagher Speaks .. To Louisianians

    "Tom Gallagher to Louisianans: Stablize Insurance Market, Promote Competition".

    Vicious Cycle

    This is hardly a surprise, the "Jeb!" administration has woefully underfunded the criminal justice system; consider the 20th Judicial Circuit:

    Because of chronic underfunding of the circuit, [State Attorney Steve] Russell points out, overworked prosecutors juggle a heavy caseload; the attorneys' low salaries cause high turnover, which results in a backlog of cases; defendants sit in jail awaiting trial, straining resources at the county level.

    It's a vicious cycle that hurts prosecutors, counties, the plaintiffs and defendants. As Russell says, the lack of funding needs to be addressed, if not by the Legislature then by the statewide prosecutors' association that sets funding levels based on population and attorney workload.

    Russell presented his case last week in a meeting with Charlotte County's legislative delegation. Among other things, he noted that the 20th Judicial Circuit is:

    Florida's largest, comprising 1.1 million people and 5,400 square miles in Charlotte, Lee, Hendry, Glades and Collier counties.

    The state's second fastest-growing circuit, adding 52,000 people last year alone.

    The second-lowest funded circuit.

    The circuit's public defender, Robert Jacobs II, will also request relief from the Legislature. Jacobs said this week that his office gained only nine additional employees this year, out of 30 positions requested. In 2005, Jacobs' office handled 38,250 cases.

    Jacobs pointed out that public defenders' starting pay in the 20th circuit ($41,000) is even lower than that of state attorneys ($43,000), and that most entry-level attorneys carry significant student loan debt.
    "Shortchanging justice".

    Hawkes in Hot Water?

    Remember Jebbie's First DCA appointment, Paul Hawkes? Martin Dyckman described Hawkes as "a political hatchetman in the House speaker's office when named to the 1st District Court of Appeal at Tallahassee". Seems Mr. Hawkes may be in a little trouble:

    Though newly released emails (as well as friends and family) tie him closely to House Speaker Marco Rubio’s office, First District Court of Appeal Judge Paul Hawkes said he had nothing to do with the Miami lawmaker’s decision to open an inquiry into fellow 1st DCA Judge Charles Kahn.

    Hawkes’ son, House Counsel Jeremiah Hawkes, emailed a draft of Rubio’s letter Dec. 4 requesting that the Judicial Qualifications Commission share its investigative files on Kahn, who is the target of an as-yet private complaint. The email was sent to an assistant of Rubio’s staff chief, Richard Corcoran, Paul Hawkes’ former legislative aide and consulting partner.
    "Judge: Rubio isn’t my tool in inquiry".

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