Check out these Florida posts at dKos: "FloridaKos - Networking Florida Kossacks" and "Turning Florida Blue - The Party On Our Side". On to today's Florida political news and punditry.
Charlie's "First Crisis" - Refuses Paternity Test
In a story we noted yesterday, "the parents who adopted a girl 17 years ago have reached out to Gov. Charlie Crist about the possibility that he is their daughter's biological father." "Crist Denies He's the Father" (scroll down); for the background to this see the St. Pete Times' "Girl wonders: is Crist my dad?".
Then a bombshell hit: His hometown newspaper quoted a teen wondering if he was her father. Crist amiably denied the claim when confronted by reporters Thursday and repeatedly said, "I'm not going to dignify it with any further comment."The Miami Herald observes: "How the self-styled 'people's governor' handles his first personal crisis in office will say much about him as a politician as well as a person."."Crist keeps eye on the bill". See also "Crist says 'no' to DNA test to settle claim", "Crist again in paternity argument", "Crist again denies paternity as teen seeks biological mom", "Girl's family says it wanted only to inform Crist", "Crist denies he's teenage girl's father" and "Gov. Crist refuses paternity test; family not asking" ("Crist is declining to take a DNA test to settle a question that has nagged him for years: Did he have a one-night stand 17 years ago and father a daughter?")
Adam Smith takes a look at the issue in a column today:
If a man is sure he couldn't be the father of a child, why would he sign legal documents that would forever record a paternity allegation against him?"Wisdom of signing paternity papers debated".
Charlie Crist has not explained why in 1989 he signed legal papers surrendering parental rights and consenting to the adoption of a little girl he was accused of fathering. In those documents, he said he couldn't be the father.
But lawyers who specialize in adoption and paternity issues say Crist may have just wanted to facilitate the adoption and get rid of a nuisance charge quickly and quietly. ...
But other adoption professionals question whether signing such documents, even to help clear an adoption, is wise for a man who is certain, as Crist claimed, that he could not be the father.
"Objective Minds Agree": Mel's A Wingnut
This piece in The Hill (via Q) by a GOP consultant castigates the right wing blogosphere for suggesting that Mel Martinez is anything other than a fellow right wing extremist:
Objective [sic] minds agree. The American Conservative Union gave Martinez a perfect score for its most recent (2005) ratings of senators, besting even ex-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). Right-to-Life gives Martinez a rating of 100 percent for 2005 and 2006. Even the left agrees. The Americans for Democratic Action gave Martinez a perfect “0” (zero) in 2006 while they gave conservative darlings Santorum and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) higher scores of 5."Blogosphere missed it on Martinez".
Remember all the MSM blather (particularly in the Orlando Sentinel) about Mel's ability to reach across the partisan divide?
Jebbie's 'Glades "Legacy"
"During the Jeb Bush administration, this was standard operating procedure."
Specific criticism about environmental policy brought a generic response about the wonderfulness of the governor and the state. As the Associated Press story on the Audubon report pointed out, however, the state under Jeb Bush delayed the state's Everglades cleanup plan by 10 years. Also, the governor tried unsuccessfully to get the state out from under federal court supervision of the plan. ..."State trying on Everglades; make the feds try harder". See also "Everglades" ("Crist will need more than good intentions to pry money out of Congress for Everglades restoration.")
So, rather than try to hide bad decisions of the last governor, the DEP and the water district should stress the support for the Everglades that new Gov. Charlie Crist expressed to the coalition. They should urge the new Democratic majority in Congress to approve the Everglades money that the Republican Congress did not provide, because without that money, there won't be Everglades restoration. Anyone claiming otherwise simply is ignoring reality.
"An inspector general audit found that millions of dollars were misspent or misappropriated by The Geo Group and Corrections Corporation of America, which run the state's seven private prisons. ... During a Thursday meeting, Crist, R-Tampa and chairman of the Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee, blasted the contract with Geo, which he said was so poorly written the state was lucky to recoup any of its losses." "Lawmaker seeks probe of prisons overseer's pact". See also "Lawmaker wants prison contract investigated".
"Crist signed a sweeping insurance-reform bill into law Thursday -- but even he agreed there's a lot of work left to be done." "Hurricane to-do list still long, Crist says". See also "Crist signs insurance bill on North Palm front porch", "Crist signs insurance-reform bill", "Crist Signs Bill Set To Trim Insurance Premiums", "Crist signs insurance bill" and "Crist signs insurance bill, takes ceremony to people".
The editorial reviews keep coming in: "Your insurance rates may go down, a little. Your risk -- as a taxpayer or property owner -- will go up, a lot. The bargain struck in the special legislative session that ended Monday, and signed into law Thursday by Gov. Charlie Crist, is far from certain, and nowhere near ideal." "Cautious bargain".
Property Taxes Next on the Agenda
"Just two days after lawmakers wrapped up a special legislative session targeting homeowners insurance rates, they rolled up their sleeves on the Capitol's No. 2 hot-button issue: property tax relief." "Property Tax Relief Takes Stage As Legislative Priority".
"Lawmakers are considering a slew of proposals to help Floridians who feel trapped in their homes, cannot afford to buy a new home or are leaving the state because their property taxes are too high." "Save Our Homes tax break unfair?".
Search for New Ed Commissioner
"Education board names acting commissioner, begins national search".
The State Board of Education approved a plan for a national search to replace retiring Education Commissioner John Winn after naming his chief of staff as a temporary replacement Thursday.No doubt Chairman and "Jeb!" sycophant Fair waould like to hear Jebbie's views on the issue as well. See also "Crist to have say on new education commissioner".
The plan includes offering Gov. Charlie Crist an opportunity to participate in reference checks and interviews of candidates for the job Crist held in 2001-03 when it was an elected position. The board, though, has sole authority to hire the new commissioner.
"I would certainly want the governor's input," Chairman T. Willard Fair said after the board's meeting. "It would only be the courteous thing to do."
"Already a vote-rich megastate, Florida is looming as an even bigger prize in 2008 as lawmakers prepare to move up the state's presidential-primary date to increase its political influence." "Florida wants early primary, more clout".
"The state's largest auto-insurance company is suing the state's largest hospital system, complaining of grossly inflated prices for the medical treatment given auto-accident victims." "Insurer targets hospitals, no-fault law".
The Tampa Trib editors: "Florida's growth has slowed down, but local leaders should resist pressure to relax popular measures that have raised the price of new houses, such as impact fees and growth rules." "How State And Region Grow More Important Than How Fast".
"Representative B" In The House
"Despite losing her Senate bid last year, Katherine Harris was on hand at Tuesday night’s State of the Union address."
According to the U.S. News & World Report’s "Washington Whispers," Harris was "mingling on the Republican side and even handing out business cards" prior to the president’s speech. ..."Harris at State of the Union".
Prior to the election, Harris promised she’d write a book naming names of those she thinks betrayed her in the Senate race.
"The Third-highest Uninsured Rate"
"The problem is especially acute in Florida, where thousands of low-paid service workers, many of them recent immigrants, are living without insurance."
A Census Bureau study found that 19.6 percent of Florida residents were uninsured, using a three-year average from 2003 to '05."Bush's health-care cure: How it affects Floridians".
Florida had the third-highest uninsured rate, behind Texas and New Mexico.
"It's incredibly frustrating that the president is plainly insensitive and unaware of the reasons so many are uninsured and underinsured," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston. "The assumption is that people don't have health insurance because they are choosing not to have it and that somehow tax breaks would make it more affordable.
Our Education Guv
More on Jebbie's education "legacy", and "the impending train wreck that is Florida's university system. Simply put, the system is growing too fast, and Florida is not spending enough money to ensure students have access to quality programs." "Be more ambitious".
"Revised reading and language arts standards for Florida’s public school students received unanimous approval Thursday from the State Board of Education." "Education Board OKs new language, reading standards".
South Florida Hearts Chavez?
"South Florida exports to Venezuela soared in the past three years, topping $3.5 billion last year and making Venezuela the area's No. 2 trade partner, trailing Brazil, the latest U.S. government data show." "Despite Chavez rants, Venezuelans tap S. Florida to stock up on U.S. consumer goods"
A Florida Thing
"Hollywood students clash on whether Confederate-themed clothing should be banned".
Its A Start
"To try to keep students healthy - and in school - Florida State University will become the first state college to require students to buy the university's comprehensive health insurance or prove they have comparable coverage of their own. FSU is phasing in the plan, starting with freshmen this fall." "FSU to require health insurance coverage".
"On Thursday, officials with the Florida Housing Finance Corporation said a review committee rejected the Tango Gardens application [a project designed to attract teachers and police] along with 21 other proposals throughout the state." "State rejects developer's funding bid for housing".
The Miami Herald editorial board:
We have no way of knowing why the votes of so many people on the iVotronic touch-screen machines weren't counted in an election that had a small turnout. The machines have no paper trail. In contrast, absentee-ballot undervotes in this election are paper forms that are optically scanned. Some people may have misread the directions or put an X or some other mark on their ballot that couldn't be read by the scanner. Their votes could be counted if a recount were necessary."Count every vote".
The tally of undervotes is too small to have made a difference in Tuesday's election outcome, unlike the District 13 congressional race in November. More than 18,000 undervotes appeared in Sarasota County, which uses the same touch-screen machines as do Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The election was determined by a mere 369 votes, spawning lawsuits and controversy.
The persistence of undervotes on touch-screen machines in Florida elections makes a compelling case for a paper trail of votes. The Legislature can remedy this, and it should do so this year.
"Robert Wexler becomes the third congressman from Palm Beach County named to the House Financial Services Committee." "Stacking Financial Services".
"Lake Okeechobee is sometimes called the "Liquid Heart" of Florida, yet it's more often treated like a liquid dumping ground." "Resuscitating Florida's Heart".
Jebbie's Going Away Gift to Low-Income Floridians
"Although thousands of hurricane-ravaged Florida homes still need roofs, a $100-million federal grant that could have helped repair them will mostly support a state effort to prepare undamaged houses for future storms."
The decision by former Gov. Jeb Bush's administration in the waning months of his term frustrated and angered some South Florida officials. They say it has hamstrung efforts to bring relief to low-income residents whose homes remain in disrepair."Aid won't be used to repair houses".
We're Outa Here
"For the first time in years, three of the nation's largest moving companies say they're transporting more customers out of Florida than into it." "Do stats show Florida's allure dimming?".
Can't Get Enough
"Crist Can't Get Enough of Democrats".
Jeremy Wallace notes that Rep. Ron Reagan’s "mood improved when he found himself being appointed to head the House Insurance Committee, as the Legislature prepared for the special session on insurance rates. Now, he’s downright gleeful after being re-assigned again, this time heading the Jobs and Entrepreneurship Council – which oversees four committees, including the Insurance Committee." "Reagan's roller coaster".
"The chancellor of Florida's university system says it will take as much as $3.4-billion to build the facilities colleges need to serve students in the future." "Universities get construction cash surprise".
Willard Fair Two-timing "Jeb!"?
"Fair paid a small tribute to Handy on Thursday, saying he was honored to have served as his sidekick for eight years. 'God bless you,' he said. 'I love you dearly.'" "Saying goodbye". But Willard, we thought it was Jebbie you "love"?
Is it Possible Rubio's a Liar?
"House Speaker Marco Rubio refused to answer questions Thursday on whether he had forced Rep. Don Brown, a DeFuniak Springs Reublican, and Rep. Dennis Ross, a Lakeland Republican, to give up their leadership posts in the Florida House." "Rubio refuses to say if he ousted lawmakers". See also "Rubio mute on demotions".