Since 2002, daily Florida political news and commentary


UPDATE: Every morning we review and individually digest Florida political news articles, editorials and punditry. Our sister site, FLA Politics was selected by Campaigns & Elections as one of only ten state blogs in the nation
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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, October 02, 2007

"He's awfully lucky he's not up until 2010"

    "In a brief interview, Martinez, of Orlando, said Monday that he would quit after a GOP presidential nominee is selected in early 2008 because 'it was a logical time.'"
    Last week, the four first-tier Republican presidential candidates skipped a nationally televised debate before a black audience. Three of the four also turned down invitations to a Spanish-language debate hosted in Miami earlier in September by the Univision network. And with the exception of Arizona Sen. John McCain, all of the party's candidates have taken increasingly strident stands against any immigration reform that would permit illegal immigrants to qualify to remain here.

    Casey Klofstad, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Miami, said the controversies represent a "sea of change" among Republicans that contradicts the diversity-minded intention of putting Martinez in charge.

    "All these things happened and then he looks to step down. Is this the motivation? I have no idea. But they are close enough in time that [it suggests] the party or Martinez are showing some expressions of frustration," Klofstad said.
    Another factor in the decision is public recognition of Mel's incompetence:
    Martinez's approval ratings have plummeted in recent months. A Quinnipiac University poll released in July showed that only 38 percent of Florida voters approved of his performance as senator -- down 12 points in six months.

    "He's awfully lucky he's not up until 2010," said political scientist Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia in July.
    "Martinez to quit RNC job".

    The Sun-Sentinel editors state the obvious: "Martinez was elected by Floridians to be a voice for their issues. He was not elected to be a party fundraiser. He needs to be spending his time being a full-time senator for Florida, and being an outspoken voice for Florida issues." "Martinez leaving job he shouldn't have taken". Add to that his embarrassing fealty to all things Bush together with his astonishing incompetence. More "Martinez refunds [almost $100,000] campaign money", "Wonkette - Diabolical Ghost-writer Haunts Mel Martinez", "Karl Rove's Florida Frankenstein", "The Real Mel Martinez", "Bush's Mr. Cellophane", "New gaffe, old Martinez defense", "Martinez: ‘I’m Not Sure Rove Had Much To Do With’ Attorney Purge", "RNC Chair Mel Martinez says that resting the troops is demeaning to them" and "Martinez: An Impressive Record Of Passing The Buck"

    ... Speaking of lame GOPers

    "The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began targeting U.S. Rep Tom Feeney of Oviedo and seven other House Republicans with radio ads Monday over their votes against expanding a children’s health insurance program." "DCCC targets Feeney during drive time".

    Scott Maxwell has a bit of fun with Feeney this morning:

    With our nation at war and struggling with everything from immigration to the economy, Congress made time last week to address the truly important stuff -- a mean newspaper ad [by Moveon.com]. ...

    Mean words indeed. See how they even rhymed his perfectly pleasant-sounding name with words that don't sound pleasant at all? Nice and patriotic people don't do such things.

    So you can see why Congress needed to take a break from dealing with Iran to take a stand against character attacks.

    Sure, it seemed a little strange to hear indignation about name-calling coming from guys like Feeney -- who based his entire last campaign on calling his opponent a "crazy" tinfoil-hat-wearing lunatic.
    "The name game is trivial pursuit".

    More Hypocrisy

    Maxwell has more: "Colorado Democrat Mark Udall's office said Monday that he was preparing a counter-resolution that accuses [hillbilly heroin] Rush Limbaugh of referring to veterans and servicemen and women who oppose the war as 'phony soldiers.'"

    Rush complained that his words were taken out of context. But the Chicago Tribune noted that moments after Rush insisted he had never referred to any actual soldier as a "phony soldier," he called U.S. Rep. Jack Murtha, a Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient, a "phony soldier" as well.

    That doesn't sound very patriotic. Draft a resolution!

    So will Central Florida lawmakers be condemning Rush "in the strongest possible terms" as well?

    Well, Brown-Waite agreed with Rush that his words had been "misconstrued," but vowed to protect troops from "personal attacks, from whatever organization might make them."

    Said Keller: "I oppose personal attacks against Gen. Petraeus and other soldiers, regardless of whether they're launched from the right or left."

    And a spokeswoman for Feeney said the issue needs to be handled "on a case-by-case basis." She called the MoveOn.org ad particularly "disgusting" and reminded us all: "Congress uses resolutions for the very purpose of expressing its collective opinions."
    More on the resolution from the Denver Post:
    Udall's resolution, introduced Monday night, says that Congress condemns "the personal attacks made by the broadcaster Rush impugning the integrity and professionalism of Americans serving in the Armed Forces."

    There were 19 co-sponsors Monday night. None were from Colorado.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., asked other senators to sign a letter of censure.
    Let's see how Florida's self-righteous gas-bags weasel out of this one, and whether the media will give it the same attention the MoveOn.com flap received.

    Charlie recalls he's the governor at the "last-minute"

    After spending weeks burnishing his national political bona fides, Charlie decides to make "a last-minute entrance into two legislative feuds Monday, ordering lawmakers to take up the expired no-fault auto-insurance law when they meet this week and prompting them to hold another special legislative session to fix a property-tax proposal that a judge invalidated." "Crist calls for action on taxes, auto insurance". See also "Include no-fault on session agenda, Crist tells leaders", "Session time set for PIP, taxes", "Crist wants no-fault law considered", ""No fault" auto insurance joins legislative agenda", "Session to weigh no-fault future", "Motorists, insurers wait, watch", "Lawmakers to deal with no-fault, tax relief at separate sessions" and "PIP added to session".

    The Orlando Sentinel editorial board credits Charlie for showing a teensy-weensy spine: "Crist finally acted as governors -- as leaders -- must. He abandoned his maddening 'I remain hopeful' and 'I'm cautiously optimistic' comments and announced Monday that extending no-fault will be added to the agenda of lawmakers, who are returning to the capital this week to tackle the state's budget crisis. He wouldn't have done that, however, if lawmakers didn't appear all-but-ready to give no-fault another go." "Extend PIP".

    Sorry about that "merit pay"

    "State lawmakers expect to snip $147.5 million promised for teacher merit pay out of the budget this week, a temporary move to help solve this year's financial crisis. Legislative leaders hope to restore money for performance pay in the spring, before checks are to be cut. But even if they don't, many Florida educators will not care." "Merit-pay cut may not be a problem".

    Supreme's Decide Election Case

    "Supreme Court justices on Monday sharply critiqued Washington state's primary election system, with several suggesting that it violates political parties' First Amendment rights. Washington allows primary candidates to identify which parties they prefer, even if they aren't the parties' official nominees. In a case watched by political professionals nationwide, justices wondered Monday whether Washington is infringing on protected rights of free association." "State's primary laws get harsh critique".

    Another Man of the People

    "Sen. Carey Baker, a Eustis Republican, will raise cash for his re-election bid Tuesday night at the Tallahassee office of the Florida Retail Federation, a big business player in the Capitol." "Baker gets a helping hand from Retail Federation".

    More Increases Wanted

    "Property insurers are seeking further rate increases in Florida, despite once again setting record profits." "Insurers ask for higher rates".

    Keeping Secrets

    The Tallahassee Democrat editors: "With a special session about to begin and an agenda that includes some of the most significant public business in years, secrecy is once again the rule in the state capital." "Easier, not better". More from the Sun-Sentinel editors: "Special legislative session won't teach voters much".

    McCain's Mess

    McCain didn't help himself in Florida with this: "Several Jewish organizations criticized John McCain on Monday after the Republican candidate said he would prefer a Christian president over someone of a different faith. ... Amid the criticism, Democrat Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, an Orthodox Jew, came to the defense of his Senate colleague." "Jewish groups criticize Sen. McCain". Meanwhile, "McCain On Second Lap of Tallahassee Fund-Raisers".

    Another RPOF Snoozer

    Too much time on their hands:

    Last week, the state Republican Party sent a mailer to Florida Democrats, bashing the Democratic candidates over the boycott and urging Florida Democratic voters to switch parties.

    Monday, they announced a new web site that “highlights the recent announcement by the Democrat presidential candidates that they will obey Democrat National Committee rules and boycott the state of Florida unless they are coming here to collect a campaign check.”
    "GOP 'Not Focusing' Maybe, But Clearly Not Forgetting Dem Boycott". See also "Greer: GOP will profit from Dems' squabble" and "Republicans rip primary pledge" ("Florida Democratic Party spokesman Mark Bubriski said the Republicans have 'botched a war, have 'corruption coming out of their ears' and have more to worry about than 'a silly Web site.'"

    RPOF "Standards"

    "The Republican Party of Florida has announced the criteria for participation in the televised debate to be held at its Presidency IV convention Oct. 21, and though the standards aren’t restrictive, they still could rule out some candidates with small but devoted followings. According to those standards, candidates must have at least 1 percent support—without counting the error margin—in three of six independent polls commonly done in Florida between Aug. 1 and Oct. 7. The companies are Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, Inc., Insider Advantage, American Research Group, Inc., Quinnipiac University, Rasmussen Reports, and Strategic Vision, LLC. " "GOP Debate Standards Could Rule Out Some Candidates".


    "Congressional Quarterly’s first round-up of 2008 House races says there’s 'no clear favorite' in freshman Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Mahoney’s bid to hold his seat against the winner of a three-way GOP primary." "13 months out: Mahoney toss-up, Klein favored".

    FCAT Follies

    The Miami Herald editors write that

    a singular, obsessive focus on the FCAT has distorted the importance of the test. Schools have tried to motivate teachers by giving them bonus pay. They have offered students free iPods and pizza for good scores.

    Worse, though, is that an over-the-top emphasis on the FCAT can have negative repercussions on other studies. Some schools are so desperate to improve their FCAT scores that they short-change other curricula, such as art, health or history.
    "FCAT in perspective".

    Questions Remain

    "To widespread relief, the Florida Supreme Court moved last week to revise a ruling that could have forced cities and counties to go back to voters to approve money already borrowed for some redevelopment projects."

    The same ruling could have had devastating consequences for school districts that rely on lease-borrow financing to build schools.

    School leaders would have faced a double bind -- forced to build classrooms under a voter-approved constitutional mandate to reduce class sizes but required to seek voter approval in an era where a resounding political mantra is "cut taxes."

    That dilemma was removed Friday when the justices clarified a unanimous Sept. 8 decision that said before local governments borrow money to be paid back with property-tax dollars, they have to win voter approval -- as it says clearly in the state constitution. ...

    The revised ruling, which reversed a 1980 state Supreme Court decision, still faces a legal protest from local governments (for which a hearing is scheduled for Oct. 9). ...

    The decision could still wreak havoc on how redevelopment projects are financed. Until now, local governments have been able to use tax-increment funds to leverage money for needs wholly within a redevelopment project -- which range from building sewers to helping build new edifices. Now they will need voter approval to do so.

    But who votes -- only residents of a redevelopment district? Or all residents of the city? The county? The justices, basing their decision on the "plain language" of the constitution, haven't been plain enough on that point. And it could prove the most critical point to the future of redevelopment in this state.
    "Bond-to-build ruling".

    And Then There's Florida

    "Eight states are suing the Bush administration over new rules that block expansion of a health insurance program for children from low-income families. The coalition of states includes New Jersey, Maryland, Arizona, California, Illinois, New Hampshire, New York and Washington, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine said Monday." "Eight states sue over child health coverage".

    Bilirakis gets another challenger

    "Former Plant City Mayor [Democrat] John Dicks today made it official: He’s running next year for the congressional seat now held by freshman GOP Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor. ... Bilirakis already has one other Democratic opponent, William D. 'Bill' Mitchell, a Tampa employment lawyer and Navy veteran. " "Dicks Files For House Seat".

    Careening "from crisis to crisis"

    Howard Troxler:

    Our state careens from crisis to crisis. We apply quick fix after quick fix and hope that something sticks. Our policy consists of cute catch phrases - "drop like a rock," "biggest tax cut in history."

    In January, our Legislature met to "fix" our state's insurance crisis, and ended up making things worse. It put the people of Florida on the hook for more risk without changing the problem.

    Next, our Legislature proposed to "solve" property taxes. It passed a one-time cut and proposed a gimmicky, longer-term cut that has been thrown off the ballot. These ideas were passed within 72 hours of the time legislators first saw them.

    The automobile insurance laws of Florida have been thrown into confusion with the expiration of no-fault insurance. Having had years to address it, the Legislature now will talk about making a fix after the fact.

    The election "reform" passed last spring has wreaked havoc with the presidential primary, committed the state to another rushed switch of voting machines, and opened the door for further mischief.

    On Wednesday, the Legislature will convene yet again for our latest state "crisis," this one a shortfall in the state budget. Here's betting the result does not put Florida on a stable long-term path.
    "Bobbing along from crisis to crisis".

    "No deal"

    Mike Thomas has a problem with "a developer teaming up with the city of DeBary to push for construction of a marina on this stretch of river. It would add about 250 boats to river traffic."

    One would assume from the upscale nature of the project that these would not be johnboats. They would be the big, beefy boats that hit manatees like linebackers armed with chain saws.

    DeBary City Council member Chris Carson argues this could help manatees because boaters would take care of the river. Council member Jack Lenzen argues docks would provide manatees refuge, presumably from all the boats.

    In environmental jargon, they argue marinas act as mitigation for marinas. So we might as well line the entire St. Johns River with them, creating one huge sea pig love fest.

    Throw in some road paving and utilities offered by the developer, and DeBary is ready to deal.

    I say no deal.
    "This stretch of river is part of an aquatic preserve. If you can put a marina in an aquatic preserve, what's the point? Let's be honest and change the designation to something like Aquatic Acres -- sounds nice, means nothing, looks good on a billboard."
    I cannot argue that adding 250 boats to the crossfire will wipe out manatees. But add in all the other boats. Add in the pollution. Add in development and shoreline destruction.

    Add in that the St. Johns River Water Management District is allowing utilities to suck the water out from under Blue Spring. Keep adding and adding and adding.

    At what point do all the additions become so withering that this small herd of manatees collapses?

    Piling on to find the breaking point is good for developers but bad for the precious things we are losing.
    "DeBary plan for manatees: Slice and dice!".

    The "Liberal" St. Pete Times

    Yet another example of Florida's "liberal" St. Pete Times dissing unions and negotiated health care benefits - quoting their fellow ink stained wretches on the SSJ editorial board no less: "UAW retirees, the last of what the Wall Street Journal referred to as 'an industrial aristocracy of blue-collar workers.' When times were good, GM found it easy to offer the Cadillac of health care coverage to retirees and their spouses."

    You see, the St. Pete Times' liberal editors apparently think its time to recognize the "reality" that "fewer employers are offering their workers medical insurance at all - down from 69 percent of companies in 2000 to 60 percent this year. As for retirees, companies are increasingly turning to fixed health benefits that shift the burden of managing medical expenses to individuals. And Medicare is rapidly becoming unsustainable, with the hospital-insurance trust fund expected to fall short in 12 years." "Painful new reality on health care".

    You'd think the traditional media would spend time attacking the "reality" of "fewer employers are offering their workers medical insurance" instead of folks who are fighting to stop the trend (the "reality") - of course that would entail saying something positive about unions, and we can't have that can we.

    The Florida Elections Commission at Work

    Lucy Morgan: "Sometimes a courtroom victory leaves one wondering about the cost of justice."

    Take the case of the Wakulla Independent Reporter, a tiny newspaper published in the Florida Panhandle that the Florida Elections Commission effectively shut down for more than a year.

    Thanks to the generosity of the ACLU, which financed a lawsuit against the state agency, the publisher won: The state threw in the towel after the case went before a federal judge.

    But the publisher and the ACLU will not be allowed to recover any of the $80,000 in fees and expenses they say it cost them.

    Publisher Julia Hanway says it was her good fortune that she had an attorney, Robert Rivas, and a law firm, Sax & Sachs, willing to take the case.

    "If it wasn't for them, I would never have been allowed to print another issue of the Wakulla Independent Reporter, and the FEC's relentless pursuit of their admittedly incorrect position would have been allowed to stand."

    It started in 2005, when the commission accused the free tabloid newspaper of being an "electioneering communication," in violation of a law that requires those who spend more than $100 to publish election materials to register and report contributions and expenditures.

    Newspapers are exempt, but the commission said the Reporter was masquerading as a newspaper, that it was advocating an antigrowth agenda and campaigning against certain Wakulla County commissioners.
    "Tiny newspaper triumphs - but no one must pay".

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