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 Sunday, May 06, 2007

Session Summary

    Bill Cotterell declares the "Session a success". See also "2007 Legislative session: Passed and failed", "Measures That Failed" and "Crist agenda takes a hit".

    A less enthusiastic view: "You can't always get what you want. Charlie Crist used those Rolling Stones' lyrics a few weeks ago to distance himself from a controversial tax-cut plan in the Legislature. But the words could just as easily describe the mixed outcome of his first regular legislative session as governor." "Will time be on Crist's side after early legislative losses?".

    The St Pete Times editors: on many issues "the Legislature fell disappointingly short. ... Even when they agreed on the approach to big issues, they were too short-sighted. ... Many of the Legislature's spending decisions are inconsistent at best and cynical at worst. ... Where is the logic?" "Too often, they fell short".

    Meanwhile, "Crist happy with results of his 1st legislative session". But Times deputy editorial editor Tim Nickens puts it this way: "Not since Bob Graham got off to a slow start in 1979 and went on to be labeled 'Governor Jello' later in his first term by the St. Petersburg Times editorial board has a governor had so few big wins to show for his initial efforts."

    Charlie Keeps VP Door Open

    "Vice President Charlie Crist?"

    Vice President Charlie Crist? Sure, the guy's barely started his first term as governor, but with sky-high approval ratings in the country's biggest battleground state, the possibility is already generating considerable speculation (Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson's people are touting the senator's name too). The Crist buzz grew louder after lawmakers last week passed a bill that would allow Crist to run for vice president without resigning as governor.

    So we wondered if Crist would commit to serving out a full term as the (Florida) People's Governor, and rule out a vice presidential bid in '08?

    In a word, no. But he does downplay the likelihood.

    "They say never say never, but I don't even envision it, " Crist said in a Political Connections interview airing today on Bay News 9. "I want to be governor of Florida. ... That's all I think about is serving the people of this state."
    "Crist tiptoes around vice presidential chatter". See also "Crist on Possible VP Slot".

    Wingnuts Take a Back Seat

    "After eight years when Democrats - still the majority of voters in Florida but vastly outnumbered in the Legislature - have felt steamrolled by a conservative agenda that included school vouchers, restrictions on abortions, laws aimed at reducing lawsuits and a record amount of tax cuts that critics said mostly benefited the rich, the 2007 legislative session was different." "Conservative agenda muted in Crist-era Florida Legislature".


    "Marlins 'disappointed' by latest stadium defeat".

    Hey GOPers, Its Your Party

    - "State Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, is not especially impressed with South Carolina's claim [of historical first-in-the-South primary status]: 'We respect New Hampshire and Iowa's longstanding traditions in the presidential selection process, but South Carolina does not meet the historical standard of Iowa and New Hampshire,' Rivera said, noting that the GOP presidential primary is often dominated by the Confederate flag debate." "Take that, S. Carolina".

    - Its enough that ultimate empty suit Adam Putnam is in the GOP leadership, but even he is calling for Gonzales to hit the bricks: "Rep. Adam Putnam of Bartow, the No. 3 Republican in the House, is calling for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign. 'I had been saying all along that his (Gonzales') future was in his own hands by his testimony before the Senate committee, and I don't think he did well,' Putnam told the Lakeland Ledger. Other Republicans have called for Gonzales to resign, but Putnam is the highest-ranking member of the GOP leadership to do so." "Gonzales slipping".

    Defying The Parties

    "Florida lawmakers were right to defy the national political parties and move our presidential primary from mid-March to Jan. 29."

    The provocative move will increase our influence and ensure that a broader diversity of voters picks the next nominees. After all, neither Iowa nor New Hampshire reflect the nation's rich melting pot of races, ethnicities and cultures.

    More important, the switch could elevate Florida's most-pressing issues among candidates courting votes and money in the nation's fourth-largest state - the most competitive of the delegate-rich states.
    "Early Primary Boosts Influence".

    "Jeb Bush's FCAT-Worshiping Cronies"

    "Florida increasingly judges public school students by how well they do on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. Now, there is evidence that the test should be judged by how well the students do. By that standard, the FCAT would flunk."

    Against all expectations, FCAT statewide reading scores for third-graders declined this year. The failure rate in Palm Beach County rose to 19 percent from 15 percent in 2006. In St. Lucie, the failure rate rose to 23 percent from 15 percent, and in Martin the failure rate rose to 13 percent from 10 percent.

    Practice tests that many schools give had led educators to believe that reading scores would rise. So, why didn't they? Palm Beach County Superintendent Art Johnson suspects that last year's FCAT was too easy or this year's was too hard. Either case, he said, would be "very embarrassing and a bad thing."

    The state Department of Education insists that nothing is wrong. But the DOE can't be trusted. Gov. Crist isn't done replacing Jeb Bush's FCAT-worshiping cronies.

    A glitch in the FCAT's validity wouldn't matter so much if the test were used as originally intended, to diagnose weaknesses and guide improvement. But for political reasons, Gov. Bush wanted school grades and vouchers, and the FCAT was his bludgeon to get them.
    "A new reason to junk state's reliance on FCAT".

    "Backslapping and Smiling All the Way"

    "Crist and leaders of both the House and Senate are determined to cut property taxes for Floridians, many of whom have complained about soaring tax bills."

    "All of us are going to ratchet it up," Crist said. "There is a renewed sense of urgency that's appropriate."

    If not, Crist and other key leaders face potential political fallout after making tax cuts the cornerstone of the 2007 legislative session -- but failing to get it done.

    Floridians could be deluged in coming weeks with radio and television campaigns, public hearings and other events aired by the House, the Senate, Crist, and cities and counties. The last two are expected to intensify their pitch that tax cuts threaten to cripple local services.

    The key player is House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami. He seems unwilling to move much from his dramatic plan to wipe out property taxes on primary homes in exchange for an increase of up to 2.5 percentage points on the state's 6 percent sales tax. Crist and the Senate oppose such sweeping change but still want to give residents property-tax relief.
    "Can House and Senate bridge gulf on taxes?" See also "Unfinished Business At Capitol", "Complexity, philosophy thwarted property tax relief" and "Special session shifts power, but tax gears grind" ("Crist, House Speaker Marco Rubio and Senate President Ken Pruitt all agreed: Lawmakers will be back June 12, and this time, they really will deliver on their promise.")

    The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "When lawmakers return next month to address the property-tax problem, which rises to a category 5 storm for many thousands of Floridians, we urge them to keep in mind the many millions who don't deserve to be penalized by a lopsided overreaction." "Lose the hacksaw".

    Indeed, "Crist is willing to use the threat of a veto to motivate lawmakers to make a deal on property taxes during a special session in June." "Crist to tap 'arsenal' to reach tax relief".

    Michael Mayo: "After the leaders congratulated themselves for a 'phenomenal' session in which they did nothing about property taxes, they pledged to do something about property taxes very soon, at the special session June 12-22. Then off they went to Happy Hour, backslapping and smiling all the way." "While state Legislature fiddles around, Floridians burn".

    Randy Schultz: "Directly and indirectly, Tallahassee politicians blame local governments for the spike in non-homestead property taxes. In fact, Tallahassee is part of the problem, not that Tallahassee admits it. Being higher in the political chain, state legislators can dump spending they don't want and hide spending they order up to repay political favors." "Blame game won't produce tax reform".

    "Decrease in the Increase"

    "On June 1, when lower property insurance rates are supposed to take effect, many in South Florida will still pay hundreds or thousands more for coverage because the state gave insurers approval for sharp price increases in 2006. " "Hoped-for insurance savings called 'decrease in the increase'". See also "In Broward, cuts are small compared to rate hikes" and "Palm Beach residents will still pay bigger premiums".

    The Ropes

    "Freshmen Learn Ropes Quickly".

    CD 15: Weldon's Challenger

    From a press release:

    Pledging to be a leader who produces results for Florida’s families in Congress, Paul Rancatore, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force Reserves and a Captain with American Airlines, announced [last week] that he is running to represent Florida’s Fifteenth Congressional District in the United States Congress.

    "I am running for Congress because seniors, veterans and working families on the Space Coast deserve a Congressman who will provide efficient, effective, and accountable leadership,” said Rancatore. “After more than 12 years of Dave Weldon’s failure to create job opportunities, protect our nation, strengthen social security and create a real energy policy, the Space Coast is ready for a change. I offer a record of proven leadership and will fight for the concerns of all Floridians in Congress."
    Could be a race.

    No Fault

    "Crist may place car insurance on the agenda for the Legislature's special session." "No-fault might be revived".

    "Few People Seem to Care"

    "The National Coalition for the Homeless reports that 48 homeless people were attacked in Florida last year - up from 32 in 2005. Indeed, Florida leads the nation in attacks on the homeless. Of the 142 attacks last year, a third happened here. Yet few people seem to care." "Rampant Attacks On Homeless Get Ho-Hum Political Response".

    Brain Dead

    "A controversial war, investigations, plummeting polls and feisty Democrats have made it a tough year for the man known as 'Bush's Brain.' But you wouldn't know it from the applause a jovial Karl Rove received as he stepped to the lectern at the Best Western Hotel in Punta Gorda on Saturday night at the Charlotte County Lincoln Day Dinner." "Rove's small-town touring motivates Charlotte GOP". See also "Rove: Time for GOP to be bold" and "Rove celebrates 'ol' landslide' Buchanan".

    "Well Mostly"

    "Despite a no-go on property tax reform, local delegates said today there were few disappointments in the 2007 legislative session that ended Friday." "Southwest Florida lawmakers say session was a success, well mostly".

    Tuition Increase

    "The most significant education change to come out of this year's legislative session was the tiered tuition system that lawmakers approved for Florida's top three research universities. Unfortunately for hopeful leaders at the University of Florida, Florida State University and the University of South Florida, the landmark 'differential tuition' bill is also the most likely thing to die by the governor's veto pen." "Veto likely for tiered tuition bill".

    Howard Goodman

    "Au revoir for now … I'm off to the 'blogosphere'".

    Consumers Take It In The Shorts

    "Florida lawmakers began their annual session promising sweeping property tax relief for consumers. They left the Capitol on Friday without a plan. And in a fiscally cruel twist, they also left behind a $547 million statewide property tax increase for schools as part of the new state budget." On top of that, "Floridians may pay more on toll roads and to attend state universities and community colleges." There's much more here: "Consumers get mixed bag from Tallahassee".

    Special Session Warning

    "The fact remains that the governor and the Legislature failed to accomplish their top priority. As far as sound tax policy, it is the best thing that could have happened, given some of the terrible options on the table. As for politics, it isn't good at all. And things aren't going to get easier before June's special session."

    Rubio is going to go home to Miami and continue to whip up unrealistic expectations about tax cuts. Crist will be doing the same statewide if he keeps saying he wants taxes to "drop like a rock." Cities and counties now have more time to warn residents that huge property tax rollbacks would trigger deep cuts to programs and services. And the real estate market is going to continue to stagnate as everyone waits to see what happens.

    There are political realities to keep in mind about high-profile special legislative sessions.
    Read about them here: "Capitol's happy talk not enough".


    "The Legislature left town Friday and Alan Crotzer didn't get a penny. No one righted "the horrible thing" that had happened to him, as Gov. Charlie Crist called it when he pledged Crotzer his support on the Capitol steps. Crotzer had brought two bills before the Legislature - one for himself and a second that would have set up a process for other wrongly convicted people to get compensation - and the Senate rejected both." "What will open the door this time?".

    Carl Hiassen chimes in. "Way back in 1990, when Ken Pruitt first headed to Tallahassee as a freshman member of the state House, Alan Crotzer was beginning his ninth year of a 130-year prison term."

    Over time, Pruitt's future got brighter and brighter -- five great kids, a solid real-estate business in Port St. Lucie and a soaring political career.

    Meanwhile, Crotzer sat in his cell, insisting that he had not committed the two rapes and robbery for which he'd been convicted in Tampa. The all-white jury had deliberated less than an hour.

    As it turned out, Crotzer was telling the truth. Exonerated by DNA evidence and eyewitness accounts, he was freed in January 2006 after 24 years -- more than half his life -- behind bars.
    "'I'm not going to give an opinion on what's fair and not fair,' Pruitt told Miami Herald reporter Marc Caputo."
    So, let's help Kenny figure out what's fair and what's not.

    It's not fair to jail an innocent person for 24 days, 24 months or 24 years.

    It's not fair to turn him free with merely an apology, a fresh shirt and a pat on the back.

    It's not fair to treat his request for compensation as some petty or frivolous line-item on a $72 billion budget.

    Declared Pruitt: "The Senate is not going to be put in a position where we're doing it at the last minute. Nothing good ever happens whenever you're rushed or you work late.''

    Goodness knows, we wouldn't want to rush those geniuses at the Capitol into doing something rash or reckless . . .

    Such as indemnifying Crotzer for all that time he was locked away, when he didn't get to attend a college, or raise a big family, or sell real estate. He was arrested at age 20 ½ and released 12 days after his 45th birthday.
    Please read it all here: "Crotzer deserves compensation"

    Can Florida Handle The Heat?

    "With one large bill passed in the state Legislature, Florida tried to slam the door on a rocky electoral past and bared itself for more elections scrutiny. Touch-screen voting machines used in 15 counties will soon be discarded for a verifiable paper-trail system, a move borne out of both the political climate and real concerns that the machines are unreliable. And, ignoring national party threats and angering other states, Florida will likely be the fourth state to choose the presidential nominees next January." "Florida bares itself for more elections scrutiny".

    Rubio Embarrasses Himself

    Marco Rubio has managed to draw the attention of the New York Times, by appearing on "'El Traketeo,' a morning show on an FM station owned by Univision in Miami (its title roughly translates as 'the uproar' or 'the hoax') toggles between weighty discussion of matters like immigration and chatter that borders on the pornographic."

    On April 26, for example, the show, heard by an estimated 142,000 listeners each week, broadcast a parody of a salsa song in which a man pleaded with his girlfriend for anal sex.

    "I understand that you’re afraid," he said. "Relax a little."

    A day later the show's hosts conducted a phone interview about rising property taxes with Marco Rubio, a Republican from Miami who is speaker of the State House of Representatives. Sometime after Mr. Rubio hung up, the show broadcast another song parody, this one about a man whose life is being cramped by the taxes Mr. Rubio is trying to cut.

    I had to have sex in a bus, the singer laments, because "I couldn’t afford the motel."

    Asked if Mr. Rubio had been aware of the shenanigans that are part of the show’s daily diet, a spokeswoman for him, Jill Chamberlin, said that he appreciated "the opportunity Univision has given him to get the cut-property-tax message out to the citizens."
    Poor Marco. Link via Naked Politics' "Sex song helps sell Rubio's message about property taxes".


    Beth Reinhard: "Who would have thought a room full of Republicans couldn't figure how to cut taxes? Look no farther than the Florida Capitol. ... For a party that claims to be intent on easing taxpayers' pain, how do you explain a bill allowing higher road tolls and a state budget calling for a half-billion more school dollars from local property taxes?" See also "GOP identity crisis in Tallahassee".

    A Palm Beach Thing

    "Florida lawmakers budgeted nearly $475 million for Palm Beach County projects, more than double last year's $226 million allocation, despite an overall state budget that fell $1 billion short of what was expected." "County's haul grows to $475 million".

    "Insurance Fiasco"

    Mike Thomas yesterday: "If you think taxes are high, wait until the next couple of hurricanes hit. Charlie Crist and Co. in Tallahassee are just about done destroying the insurance market in Florida."

    Amazingly, and I can't emphasize that word enough, they actually are freezing premiums for customers of the state-run Citizens Property Insurance, the vast majority of them living on the coast. Already they aren't paying enough, with taxpayers subsidizing their premiums. And now the subsidy is only going to grow and grow, with taxpayers picking up the risk because there will not be enough in the kitty to cover damages.

    In addition to that, these idiots are about to chase insurance companies out of Florida with their industry bashing legislation, and actually setting up Citizens to compete with private insurers.
    "The insurance fiasco and putting Florida on the path to bankruptcy".

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