Since 2002, daily Florida political news and commentary


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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 Tuesday, May 08, 2007

"More Than Advertised"

    Troxler on the "election reform" legislation: "the Legislature tacked so much extra junk onto this sucker that it looks like a frat-house refrigerator door - and the contents are just about as unknown and dangerous."
    Besides getting rid of touch-screen machines, the bill:

    - Moves Florida's presidential primary from March to the end of January.

    - Changes the "resign to run" law, so that Florida politicians can keep their state jobs and run for federal office at the same time.

    - Cracks down further on citizen petitions, and creates a mischievous counterprocess in which opponents can get petition signatures revoked.

    - Restricts complaints to the already-puny Florida Elections Commission to the point that rule breakers just about have to turn themselves in.

    - Stacks the executive committees of political parties, and gives the state party bosses absolute power to remove local party officers.

    - Deals with the ability of political committees to raise money under various names, and to conduct polling.

    Good grief! That's still only a partial list.
    "This bill does a lot more than advertised".

    Crist: Forget the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission

    "Crist said Monday that the Legislature should resolve property tax issues, not leave them to a constitutional panel that is taking a broader look at Florida's taxation and budget systems. Crist and lawmakers have promised to cut soaring property taxes and make them fairer in response to taxpayer protests, but they were unable to get that done during the Legislature's regular 60-day session, which ended last Friday. The governor, though, said he hoped the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, which is meeting this year and next, would have 'as little as possible' to do on those issues." "Crist doesn't want property taxes left to reform commission".

    Revolving Door

    "Florida's Office of Insurance Regulation is losing a top administrator to the industry he regulates. Deputy Commissioner Rich Robleto, on Friday the head of the agency's Life and Health Forms and Rates Bureau, Monday became a lobbyist for the Florida Association of Health Plans." "Rich Robleto joins HMOs he regulated".

    Blah, Blah, Blah

    "House Speaker Marco Rubio went on national TV Monday evening and offered a forceful argument why Florida was right to move its presidential primary to Jan. 29."

    "Florida is by far the largest single swing state in the country, and over the last few election cycles, perhaps the single most important," Rubio said. "I think it behooves both parties to know that their nominee would be someone who would be palatable to Florida voters."

    With its diverse population, immigration issues and the pressure to explore new energy sources, Florida is representative of the nation, Rubio said. "The issues you'll be forced to answer in Florida are national type issues, and with all due respect to South Carolina, that may not be the case in their primary."

    But political commentator Stuart Rothenberg called the scramble for relevance "sheer chaos," and noted that other states can make the same claims as Rubio. "Everybody now wants to go first."

    Rubio said he was not worried about national parties penalizing Florida. "It''s really hard to win the presidency of this country if you can't win Florida."
    "Rubio on PBS' Newshour with Jim Lehrer". See also "Rubio on PBS".

    The 'Ole Ball Coach

    Poor South Carolina is getting tired of remarks like Rubio's (see above). Recall that Florida State Rep. David Rivera started the tiff by commenting that in "'Florida the issues are much more diverse than just the Confederate flag,' Rivera said, referring to the debate over whether the rebel banner should fly on South Carolina's statehouse grounds." "Jeff Duncan, a Palmetto state legislator ... responded by making what is the equivalent of a 'your mom' attack in the SEC." Duncan remarked,

    "Didn't Steve Spurrier coach in Florida for a while?"

    Spurrier, of course, was once the coach at the University of Florida and now wears the visor of the USC Gamegocks.

    What Duncan didn't say, though, is that Spurrier made headlines a few weeks back by coming out against displaying the [Confederate] flag on statehouse grounds.
    "Florida vs. South Carolina Already Heating Up" (via The Buzz).


    "Palm Beach County’s Democratic Party last year booked a national headliner — early Iraq pullout advocate John Murtha — to keynote its annual Jefferson-Jackson fund-raising dinner." "Dems unveil fund-raising lineup".


    "At a time when Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is counting on women to help her win the nomination, Emily's List (it stands for Early Money Is Like Yeast - it makes the dough rise) held a fundraiser in Miami at the home of attorney Ellen Freidin." "Early money is like yeast in Miami".

    Private Sector Efficiencies

    The Palm Beach Post editors observe that the

    private vendors Jeb Bush preferred for crucial state functions get the last laugh, especially The GEO Group Inc. of Boca Raton. In February, the firm received a $20.3 million contract to run the Treasure Coast Forensic Center in Martin County. The facility is supposed to be an answer to the warehousing of mentally ill inmates Judge Farnell exposed.

    One month before getting that contract, GEO agreed to pay the state $402,000 in a settlement. It was a pittance. State auditors in 2005 found that GEO and Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America were paid "about $4.5 million to which they were not entitled" for vacant staff positions at five private prisons the companies run for the state. GEO also got $3.4 million for "artificially inflated" raises and $1.57 million for unauthorized, "greatly overstated" overhead costs at South Bay Correctional Facility.

    CCA, the auditors found, spent about $170,000 a year on building maintenance and repairs between 1999 and 2004 but charged the state about $645,000 a year. In other words, the state paid CCA about $2.85 million more than the company was due. State officials still are investigating the companies' acceptance of $12.7 million in what auditors called "questionable contract concessions."

    Why, then, is the state preparing to award a $35 million expansion and $27 million worth of new contracts for work camps to CCA and GEO, in addition to the $109 million the companies already receive?
    "Override new contracts for state prison facilities".

    What's Right With Charlotte County?

    Jeremy Wallace writes that "Joe Negron is still a little stunned."

    Negron said on Election Day, he thought he was cruising along. He won the heavily Republican Martin County, Democrat Tim Mahoney grabbed heavily Democratic Palm Beach County. Mahoney edge him out in St. Lucie County, but
    Negron slipped past Mahoney in Highlands County.

    So, then it came down to Republican-heavy Charlotte. Negron was feeling pretty confident. Republicans had been carrying the district for decades – and usually by wide margins. Two year earlier Republican Mark Foley won the county with 30,000 votes to his Democrat challengers 17,000.

    Instead, Negron and Mahoney ended in almost a dead heat in the county – about 17,300 votes each. Negron said that was the key to Mahoney’s victory.
    "Negron: What happened in Charlotte?".


    "Former Gov. Jeb Bush and his wife, Columba, will be among the 134 guests at tonight's state dinner at the White House in honor of Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip." "Jeb meets the Queen".


    Mike Thomas: Crist "has pushed through a rate freeze for Citizens Property, while turning it loose to expand and compete with private insurers."

    How can a State Farm compete with that? When Citizens goes bankrupt because of its cheaper rates, it simply raises taxes on State Farm's customers.

    Citizens Property is the problem. And so now the solution is to expand our way out of it by making Citizens even bigger?
    "Meanwhile, the coastal condos continue to rise because developers can get cheap insurance."
    We have taken risk that once was spread across the global insurance market and are concentrating it here.

    When the next hurricanes arrive, Florida will go billions into debt. The more we suppress rates for the benefit of Charlie's poll numbers, the greater the debt. And the greater the tax increase we will face to pay for it.

    This is not a maybe or an if.

    It is a when.
    "Crist's magic won't eliminate insurance woes".

    "Among the Suits"

    "Among the suits and the marble of the state Capitol this past session were regular people, driven to activism by tragedies that hit home." "Personal tragedies drive average folks to fight for all".

    Here's and Idea

    "FL DNC member Jon Ausman, no slouch when it comes to navigating arcane party rules, is pushing his own presidential primary plan:"

    make the 1/29 election non-binding (officially meaningless as far as delegates), and then hold party caucuses in May or June. Under DNC rules, Florida would get 30-percent more delegates (increased up to 273) by holding such a late caucus election.

    "Florida could become a two-time battleground. If the Presidential candidates decided to contest Florida as a way to leverage California, New York, Illinois - and all the other large states which are voting on 5 February - then they will come to Florida,'' said Ausman.
    "Prez Primary machinations".

    The Washington Times (our apologies) has this: "State Democratic leaders told The Washington Times they were working behind the scenes with Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean to choose a later date for its nominating contest instead of the Jan. 29 primary set forth in a bill passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature last week." "Early primary roils Florida Democrats" (via The Buzz). The Fla Dems beg to differ.

    What Passed, What Didn't

    The Miami Herald reviews some of the legislation that didn't pass:

    ABORTION- This measure would have limited judicial discretion on allowing a young woman to get an abortion without notifying her parents. It also would have required a woman to wait 24 hours before getting an abortion after first having an ultrasound. Generally, limited judicial discretion is a bad idea, and requiring a sonogram and a wait period adds unnecessarily to the psychological trauma of the woman. Lawmakers wisely rejected it.


    - Lawmakers failed to remove an arbitrary cap on a state trust fund that helps to finance affordable housing. The cap violates the fund's intended purpose and exacerbates the crisis in housing for low-income residents and essential workers. Supporters should try again.


    - Florida took away 24 years of Alan Crotzer's life for a crime that he did not commit. Senate President Ken Pruitt unconscionably blocked a $1.25 million payment to Mr. Crotzer. Gov. Crist should insist that the Legislature approve the compensation as soon as possible. ...


    - This healthcare-insurance plan for poor children should be streamlined and adequately funded. As it is, 500,000 eligible children remain without coverage, and Florida leaves federal funds untapped. Fixing and funding KidCare should be a top priority. ...


    - This measure would have set aside $20 million for grants into adult stem-cell research. Even Gov. Crist, who is careful to avoid stepping on religious toes, supported this proposal. Stem-cell research is a promising area for medical researchers. It should not be deemed a political taboo. Supporters should try again.
    "Bills That Failed". And some of the Legislation that did pass:

    - This legislation creates statewide franchising of cable TV and, for the first time, gives phone companies a chance to compete with cable. Cable companies can drop local contracts in favor of a statewide franchise. This creates more competition, which should be good for consumers. If rates don't go down, however, legislators should consider pro-consumer amendments in future sessions.


    - Legislators allowed landlords to charge two months' rent to tenants who break leases, even when the landlord is collecting rent from a new tenant. This is overly generous to landlords and will hurt low-income renters already squeezed by a lack of affordable housing. Gov. Crist should veto this bill. ...


    - This bill replaces the controversial STAR plan with a more-flexible merit-pay plan for instructors and administrators. This measure relies less on FCAT scores and brings in other factors. This is an improvement over the previous plan, but it leaves in place the $147.5-million funding limit. Lawmakers should have allocated twice that amount, as Gov. Crist had proposed. The governor should seek more funds next year.


    • We're for open government, but Social Security and bank-account numbers shouldn't be available in court records or on the Internet for swindlers to steal. Lawmakers should have insisted the records be scrubbed immediately. Instead, they extended the deadline three years.
    "Key bills adopted by the Legislature".

    Early Primary

    Pamela Hasterok yesterday: "The national Republicans and Democrats are threatening to take away our delegates, which candidates must have to win. They threaten to make our third-in-the-nation primary into a straw poll."

    Don't believe it.

    Not a single legislator I talked to did. More tellingly, not a single political expert I interviewed, from Florida to Washington, D.C., Ohio to Texas, believed the parties would strip the state of its delegates.
    The details here: "We'll have bigger say in 2008".

    Daniel Ruth agrees: "As a piece of political theater, Howard Dean and Mel Martinez have haplessly cast themselves as the witless goofballs in the "Wayne's World" of the hustings."
    Late last week, the Florida Legislature approved moving the state's presidential primary date to Jan. 29, much to the consternation of the Democratic and Republican party chairmen.

    This was a real "Kiss my chad!" moment directed toward Dean and Martinez. And it was a beautiful thing.

    As the Legislature, urged along by Gov. Charlie Crist, pondered the earlier primary date, the party chairmen had gone into full Yosemite Sam mode, threatening any candidate who dared to campaign in the state, thereby upsetting their own carefully crafted election calendar, with - "DOOOOOOM!"

    You may yawn now.
    Read the rest of it here: "Move Up The Primary? You Bet We Can".

    FCAT Follies

    "State education officials must get serious about the significant drop in third-grade [FCAT] reading scores because the suggestion that last year's class was simply smarter doesn't pass the smell test." "Dramatic Drop In Reading Scores Demands Action, Not Shrugs".

    Simmons' "Sliding Scale"

    Scott Maxwell:

    Over the next few weeks, you're going to see more tax-cut proposals flying around Florida than egrets and herons.

    But one that may be worth particular attention comes from a local lawmaker, state Rep. David Simmons. ...

    Basically, the Maitland Republican wants to offer homeowners big tax cuts, while still asking the affluent to shoulder a bigger share. If that sounds like the way your income taxes work, that's because it is. Simmons has proposed a sliding scale.

    He suggests, for example, that all homeowners get a tax break of 65 percent on the first $100,000 of their home's taxable value. After that, they'd get an additional 55 percent break on the next $100,000; 45 percent on the next $100,000 and so forth -- with exemptions getting pretty small, about 5 percent, on all values above $600,000.

    In real terms, that means the owner of a $200,000 house would pay taxes on a total of about 40 percent of the house's assessed value ($80,000), while the owner of a $500,000 home would pay taxes on 56 percent ($280,000).

    Assuming you include provisions to also make sure that no one's taxes go up, Simmons and House economists say the plan would cost Floridians (or save Floridians, depending on how you look at it) somewhere around $2 billion.

    That's a lot. But it's a lot more reasonable approach than House Speaker Marco Rubio's original slash-and-burn plan to basically do away with taxes on homes, leave local governments strapped and jack up the sales taxes.

    And that's why Simmons' proposal is gaining steam in Tallahassee.
    "Maitland lawmaker's tax ideas: 'Fair and simple'".

    "Ideological Excesses"

    The News-Journal on the Session: "Ideological excesses like the ones that marred previous sessions gained little traction."

    Bills that would narrow a woman's access to abortion, force property owners to allow guns in their parking lots and bolster two potentially unconstitutional school-voucher programs died as soon as the handkerchiefs dropped to end the session. Meanwhile, lawmakers focused on pro-consumer, common-sense issues and made modest progress. They passed needed changes to property insurance rules, ratified a back-to-school sales tax holiday and guaranteed voters the extra security of paper ballots.

    Give lawmakers credit for charting a bipartisan course and sticking to issues that should resonate with most Floridians. Share that praise with Gov. Charlie Crist, who exercised diplomatic advocacy to good effect. But legislators left much undone.
    "Session recap: Less ideology, more focus on need".

    Nothing Better To Do?

    So nice to read that "A federal agency that conducts union corruption probes has obtained campaign finance reports for the 2004 Hollywood mayoral and commission races, city officials said Monday. ... Union contributions are legal and common in Hollywood elections. Unions representing a wide variety of workers, including city employees, firefighters and teachers, donated at least $500 to most incumbents in re-election campaigns, according to the 2004 campaign records. Mayor Mara Giulianti's latest reports for her 2008 re-election campaign stand out because of the amount of money she reported receiving from an international plumbers union with a major business interest in Hollywood. Giulianti reported accepting in February at least $25,250 from plumbers and political action committees related to the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada. In 2004, Giulianti reported receiving $1,000 from the group." "Override new contracts for state prison facilities".

    Get Ready

    "State emergency preparedness and response officials started a four-day practice exercise Monday for possible scenarios they may face this hurricane season." "State officials testing plans for storm season". See also "Disaster readiness put to test".

    Meanwhile, "Bush and the Pentagon have promised the nation's governors that extended duty in Iraq and Afghanistan won't prevent the National Guard from responding capably to disasters at home. But Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius learned firsthand on Saturday what Washington's promise is worth. She tried to mobilize Guard troops after the tornado that all but wiped the town of Greensburg off the map. The Guard had only 40 percent of its equipment allocation on hand; the rest was in Iraq. ... The Florida Guard began the year with only about 25 percent of its equipment on hand, but has raised its stockpiles to about 50 percent of authorized levels." "Florida, think Kansas".Crist: Forget the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission

    "Crist said Monday that the Legislature should resolve property tax issues, not leave them to a constitutional panel that is taking a broader look at Florida's taxation and budget systems. Crist and lawmakers have promised to cut soaring property taxes and make them fairer in response to taxpayer protests, but they were unable to get that done during the Legislature's regular 60-day session, which ended last Friday. The governor, though, said he hoped the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, which is meeting this year and next, would have 'as little as possible' to do on those issues." "Crist doesn't want property taxes left to reform commission".

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