Our review of today's Florida political news and punditry follows.
"A Nobler Outcome"
The Orlando Sentinel editors: "Reports out of Tallahassee show legislators taking aim at Medicaid payments to nursing homes and for maternity stays in hospitals, along with other services designed to relieve some of Florida's more vulnerable populations. That's wrong, but easily remedied. Lawmakers can trim more bureaucratic fat. They can take on more powerful, private interests. They can push themselves to a nobler outcome." "Spread it around". See also "House, Senate budget writers say they won't cut Medically Needy" and "Budget Crunch Jeopardizes Services For Severely Disabled".
More: "Budget plans would release some prisoners", "Crist: Leave schools alone", "State lawmakers face big budget woes", "Lawmakers consider tuition increase in response to budget crisis", "Just plane common sense" ("Here’s one possible budget cut that you won't see happening this year: reducing the size of the state's airplane fleet.") and "Visit Florida sweats possible cuts to budget".
Another Delightful Jebacy
"Florida's SAT college entrance exam scores remain some of the lowest in the country, despite a record number of high school seniors taking the test this year, according to a College Board report. ... Overall, the class of 2007 averaged the lowest math and reading SAT scores since 1999." "SAT scores lag behind national averages in Florida".
"Florida's Democratic congressional delegation dug in its heels Tuesday in support of the state's early presidential primary, despite Saturday's decision by the national party to dismiss the results at the 2008 convention. The Jan. 29 primary violates Democratic party rules that allow only four smaller states to vote that early. In an effort to spread out the primary calendar, the national party has urged Florida Democrats to organize another vote after Feb. 5. No way, said Florida officeholders in Washington, who are threatening to take the national party to court." "Primary election dispute leaves voters in confusion".
"Florida Democrats may face a big legal hurdle in challenging national Democratic Party moves to strip the state of delegates to the party’s national convention next year—a 1981 Supreme Court case that backed national parties’ rights to set rules for choosing delegates to their national conventions." "Hurdle For State Dems: 1981 Case Upheld Parties’ Rights On Convention Delegates". See also "Dem Delegation Reinforces Lawsuit Threat". More: "Congressional Dems dig in" and "War among Democrats intensifies".
The editors weigh in: "National parties should back off, fix primaries". See also "Screamin' mad" ("State Democrats' anger justified").
More from the national media: Time has this: "Will Dean's War on Florida Backfire?" and RealClearPolitics has this "Florida and the DNC, Continued" (via Naked Politics).
Meanwhile, the "GOP plans to penalize Florida for holding early presidential primary": "The Republican National Committee plans to penalize Florida and at least three other states holding early primaries by refusing to seat at least half their delegates at the party's national convention in 2008, a party official said Tuesday."
From the "Values" Crowd
a record 47 million people in the United States who did not have health insurance last year, even as the poverty level continued to decline, according to U.S. Census Bureau reports released Tuesday. That was a jump of 2.2 million from the previous year. ...By the way, the poverty rate apparently has not "continued to decline":
In Florida, for the first time in at least 20 years, 21.2 percent, or more than one of five residents, were uninsured in 2006. That made it fourth in the nation in the rate of uninsured. Texas led the nation with nearly 25 percent, compared with the national average of 15.8 percent.
One census report also showed that the nation's official poverty rate dropped from 12.6 percent in 2005 to 12.3 percent last year - 36.5 million people. The Census Bureau called that decrease the first "statistically significant" drop since Bush took office in 2001. The rate was 12.7 percent in 2004 but the bureau indicated the drop between 2004 and 2005 was not "statistically significant.""Record 47 million in U.S. uninsured".
But a separate report that looked more closely at state and local estimates put the national rate at 13.3 percent. In that report, Florida ranked 26th among the states, with a poverty level of 12.6 percent.
Feeney's "Shameless Symmetry"
The St. Pete Times editors: "If U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Oviedo, has failed to burnish an image as a congressional influence peddler, it is not for lack of trying. Apparently not content with the outrage over his lavish 2003 Scotland golf trip on the dime of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Feeney is now paying for his legal defense with $5,000 from a businessman seeking a NASA contract. Call it shameless symmetry." "Feeney sinks further into ethics swamp".
Kottkamp Finds Something to Do
"Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp was appointed Tuesday to head a new state cabinet that will help agencies coordinate children's needs." "New panel to coordinate state agencies to benefit state's youth". See also "Crist introduces Children's Cabinet".
"A Washington Post political blog reported a couple of hours ago on a slide presentation given to Rudy Giuliani volunteers that identified Florida as Giuliani’s 'firewall' in the early primary season." "Is We Is, Or Is We Ain’t, Giuliani’s Firewall?" See also "Is Florida Giuliani’s Firewall? Maybe, maybe not".
"The pressure is building on Rep. Vern Buchanan. Defenders of the Iraq war have poured $300,000 into a TV ad campaign in Buchanan's congressional district urging Congress not to 'give up' on the war. And on Tuesday, about 200 anti-war activists took to a community center in Newtown, hoping to persuade Buchanan to vote for legislation to begin bringing home U.S. troops." "Buchanan faces big pressures over Iraq".
Edwards and Kucinich
"Edwards and Kucinich were in Central Florida to address union members and officials from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. It was a friendly crowd for both men, who, like other Democrats, have positioned themselves as champions of blue-collar and middle-class workers." "Edwards, Kucinich pitch Dems as champions of working class". See also "Orlando leftovers", "Edwards: Americans should sacrifice their SUVs" and "Edwards, Kucinich try to woo union support".
Mile Thomas yesterday: "An alarming number of people in Florida and Orlando will lose their homes in the next two years. It's time for state officials to get involved." "State must help deflect disaster in foreclosures".
That "Green" Thing Annoys the GOPers
"As the Florida Legislature looks for ways to cut more than $1 billion from the state budget, it seems everything will be scrutinized -- even Gov. Charlie Crist's personal effort to curb global warming. Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, on Tuesday questioned state environmental officials on the installation of a $172,000 hydrogen cell system at the governor's mansion." "Senator raps governor for his eco-spending".
"Mayor Jim Naugle's series of controversial comments about homosexuality cost him his seat Tuesday on the board that promotes Broward County to tourists. County commissioners accused him of jeopardizing the area's multibillion-dollar tourism industry. They said Naugle forced them to take the unprecedented step of stripping him of the job when he ignored warnings to stop his attacks." "Anti-gay remarks cost Naugle his seat on tourism board".
"Michael Duga -- Taravella High grad, aide to a former U.S. senator, longtime political wonk -- got tangled up in a bizarre political web this week." "Political hotshot finds himself in hot water".
"If Gov. Crist wants to go green, state transportation policies are not supporting that goal." Read what the Palm Beach Post editors mean here: "Stop outbound money train".
Now's the Time To Buy
"After years of paying top dollar for environmentally sensitive land, Florida wants to jump into the buyers' real estate market." "Low land prices lure Cabinet".
Not "On Your Side"
"Nationwide Insurance is further withdrawing from the Florida property market, announcing plans to drop another 40,600 policies starting next year, focusing on insuring cars instead." "Insurer drops more policies". See also "Insurer will drop 40,600 policies".
Those Greedy State Employees
The Tampa Trib editors can't bring themselves to support an employee "perk": "Given that Florida State University plans to freeze enrollment next year because of state budget cuts, it's entirely reasonable that the university would stop allowing state employees to take some classes for free." "A Perk Florida Can't Afford".
Wow! How Impressive!
"Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has named a 58(!) member Florida Business Leaders for Rudy committee." Some on this list of heavyweights include, beginning with the Bernsteins(?), the following luminaries:
- Richard Bernstein - CEO, Richard S. Bernstein & Associates"Rudy gives us the business (leaders)". And Florida is Giliuani's "firewall"?
- Robert Bernstein - President, Spectrum Health Solutions
- Robin Bernstein - CEO, Richard S. Bernstein & Associates
- Perry Birman - President/Owner, American Built-in Closets ...
- Don Cerenzio - Agent, State Farm of Winter Park ...
- Ralph E. Rodriguez - President/Owner, Floor Prep Inc ...
- Eric Teuber - Owner, Little Folks Shop Inc
- Michael Edward Velilla - President/Owner, Tampa Sedan & Limousine
- C.C. Winn - Owner, No Ordinary Kleaning
"Property tax cuts a disappointment"
"Property taxes are falling for many — but not all — Floridians, although the reductions often are not as much as expected. The Legislature's passage of a tax rollback in June had property owners expecting a windfall or at least a decrease, but they are now learning that the benefits can vary due to a variety of factors, including local market conditions, state and county tax officials say." "Florida property tax cuts a disappointment to many residents".
And then there's this: "Many would be better off with Save Our Homes, analyses show." "Exemption might not be so super".
Poor Charlie - Steve Bousquet writes that: "For months, Gov. Charlie Crist has utilized his knack for compressing complex issues into crisp sound bites to create high hopes that insurance rate relief was on the way and property taxes would 'drop like a rock.' ... The first-year governor is now acknowledging he may have promised too much." "'Rock' puts Crist in a hard place".
Charlie has a "knack for compressing complex issues into crisp sound bites"? C'mon, Mr. Bousquet, you can do better than that.
"The boy, now 13, was the first witness to testify Tuesday at a rancorous custody trial over the fate of his 4-year-old half-sister. The case pits the girl's father, Rafael Izquierdo, a Cuban farmer, against the girl's foster parents, Coral Gables couple Joe and Maria Cubas." "Child custody case: Brother tells of mom's violence". See also "Brother of girl in Cuban custody case accuses mother of abuse".
The Miami Herald editorial board:
The case of the 4-year-old girl whose mother, Elena Pérez, brought her to Miami from Cuba only to become unable to care for her and her half-brother is heartbreaking. The Department of Children & Families, which says its job is to maintain the ''integrity of the family,'' seems to have forgotten that role in this case. On Monday, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Jeri B. Cohen reminded DCF of its duty -- and rightly so -- by rejecting the agency's claim that the father's desire to raise his daughter was child abuse. That's preposterous -- and Judge Cohen was justified in saying so. ..."DCF takes unusual role in custody case".
The DCF position in this case is a departure from its norm: It is recommending that the foster family get custody on grounds that Mr. Izquierdo is unfit. Besides rejecting part of DCF's abuse claim, Judge Cohen warned that the law does not seem to support DCF's claim that the father abandoned the girl by not objecting when her mother brought the girl to this country. Then there is the documents blunder. DCF and the juvenile-court clerk's office can't find the paper showing that Ms. Perez formally gave up custody of her daughter.