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 Sunday, November 25, 2007

"How to find $2 billion a year"?

    Randy Schultz queries: "how to find $2 billion a year"?
    One adjustment that won't happen is a personal income tax. The Florida Constitution prohibits it, so 60 percent of voters would have to allow it. No chance.

    So Florida will continue to rely on the sales tax. The best adjustment, therefore, would be the Streamlined Sales Tax. It's a multistate effort to collect taxes on "remote" sales - online, mail and telephone. In most states, including Florida, you're supposed to pay the tax on such orders. But only retailers that have a physical presence in Florida have to put the tax on the bill. Otherwise, the Department of Revenue relies on the buyer, so almost no one pays.

    Florida may be losing $2 billion a year in uncollected taxes. Florida also is only a halfhearted participant in the effort to make the collection nationwide. Anti-tax demagogues might call this a "tax increase" or "new tax," but it would be neither. Among other things, it would end the illegal tax break that penalizes Florida Chamber of Commerce members who employ Floridians, pay taxes and sponsor youth sports teams.

    It also makes no sense for Florida, with a service-oriented economy, to exempt so many billions in services from taxes. The Legislature instituted a services tax in 1987, then panicked and repealed it. As one final, stupid gesture, the Legislature raised the sales tax to 6''percent, but closed no loopholes.
    "Can Florida have serious tax debate?".

    The St Pete Times editorial board: "Fixing a broken tax system".

    Might the solution be just around the corner? - "After more than a year of tax cut talk, the most significant change in 2008 could shift taxes on Snickers candy bars, diluted orange juice and artificial eyeballs."

    Direction needed

    The Tampa Trib editors: "Major electric companies suddenly are refusing to bet their profits on coal. Trouble is, they aren't sure what option is better."

    The national mood clearly favors a reduction in greenhouse gases. But a lack of direction from Congress on what the regulatory rules will be is leading companies like TECO to postpone major investments.

    For a growing state like Florida, the congressional indecision and lack of clear standards at the state level could lead to higher electric bills with little environmental benefit.

    Plans for two new coal-burning power plants featuring state-of-the-art technology have recently been canceled - one by TECO and the other by The Orlando Utilities Commission.
    "Uncertainty Blurs Energy Future As Utilities Back Away From Coal".


    "They rose from abject poverty to running one of the most lucrative Indian gambling enterprises in the country, capped in March with the $965 million purchase of the Hard Rock International hotel and cafe chain." "Gambling gives Seminole Tribe access to millions". See Mark Lane: "Seminoles and slots, continued".

    On a related subject: ""The Seminole Tribe of Florida's leaders have spent millions on lavish homes, boxing rings, basketball courts and other gifts for themselves and relatives as the tribe's gambling enterprise have expanded into one of the nation's largest, a newspaper's investigation shows." "Newspaper: Seminole Tribe of Florida leaders spend lavishly".

    "Political ruckus not new for Florida"

    Bill Cotterell writes today about some of Florida's colorful political history, reminds us that "the state's history of picking partisan nominees for president is replete with earlier versions of wrangling and intrigue, going back at least four decades and many political generations." "State has history of primary skirmishes".

    Florida's "know nothings"

    Did you know that there are "about 300 Floridians who have joined the controversial Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, the national group that seeks to end illegal immigration. Recently, he and three other Florida members spent from a few days to a full month in the Arizona desert, looking for Mexicans and other foreign nationals crossing illegally into the U.S. There are Minuteman chapters in Central Florida, South Florida and North Florida. Members tend to be middle-aged, politically conservative, strongly pro-military -- and predominantly non-Hispanic white." "Patriots or vigilantes? Florida's Minutemen on lookout for illegals".

    But it's okay for for 75 year olds?

    "Bill would ban drivers younger than 18 from using cell phones while driving".

    Rebuilding a river

    "A 13-year project looks to restore the stream of water to its original ecosystem of species." "Kissimmee River flows toward its restoration".

    Good luck

    "Check out the Republican hopefuls Wednesday night in St. Petersburg for the CNN/YouTube debate and you'll see four or five candidates with plausible paths to the nomination." "Go ahead, try to pick a winner".

    "Soldiers of fortune"

    "Call them tax consultants, agents, brokers or representatives (tax reps for short). By whatever name, they share a goal: shave their clients' property assessments - and city and county property taxes - as much as possible." "Tax wars' soldiers of fortune".

    One Penny

    Robyn Blumner asks: "Would you pay an extra penny per pound of tomatoes if you knew it meant farmworkers who make an average $10,000 to $12,500 a year would nearly double their wages?" "At a penny per pound, a little adds up".

    Name that school ...

    The St Pete Times editors observe that

    Drawing the line on what names are appropriate for schools gets down to what values the school system hopes to instill in the community. Hillsborough's 206 schools are named after many of the usual suspects - presidents, governors, generals. But they also honor pioneers, developers, growers, even a dairy farmer. Schools named after parts of town give those areas an identity - some good, some bad.

    The district needs to make the naming process less arbitrary. It needs to honor civic leaders like Iorio and figure out how to recognize institutions like MOSI without going commercial. Schools serve a unique public purpose and their names should reflect not only what a community has to offer but the values it wants to endure.
    "Name schools for our values".

    And he drives a red corvette

    "Watch out, bad guys of Tampa Bay. Chuck Norris the actor and martial arts pro who is said to have two speeds, walk and kill - is planning to come to St. Petersburg this week to lend his support to Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee at the CNN/YouTube debate." "Huckabee enlists a persuasive backer". There's more: "Huckabee Stumps With Ex-Wrestler Flair".

    Those icky "unions"

    In an otherwise interesting column this morning, Randy Schultz penned this: "Who said that? The head of the teachers union? Some government bureaucrat who wants a fat raise? A senior citizen who wants her Meals on Wheels from The Breakers?"

    It's a little thing, but it is worthing recalling that on the rare occasion the word "union" is uttered in Florida's corporate media - even by pseudo-"liberals" like Schultz - it is virtually always in a derogatory way. No wonder Floridians have a less than informed view of the labor movement - they certainly didn't (and don't) learn about the role of unions in a democratic society in school; don't look to the traditional media to fill the ignorance gap: the ink stained wretches are equally uninformed, willfully ignorant and/or outright hostile to the union movement.

    For example, wouldn't it have been refreshing to read something like this in Florida's traditional media at the outset of one of the most significant labor dispute in Florida that began in the mid-1990s, and continues to this day (all underscoring supplied):

    Grosvenor Resort Owes Workers Substantial Backpay

    Following a long and contentious struggle that spanned several years, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) has ordered the Grosvenor Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., to pay 41 workers over $700,000 as compensation for lost wages and benefits that resulted from their improper termination. Concluding that the Resort had been less than diligent and forthcoming during proceedings to determine the amount of its liability, the ALJ rejected almost all of its arguments while finding that most of the non-English-speaking workers’ testimony to be credible. This caused anything but a happy ending for the Grosvenor, which is part of the Walt Disney World complex.

    The controversy began in 1996, when the Grosvenor prematurely declared that it had reached an impasse in negotiations with the union representing its housekeeping, service and maintenance employees. An impasse is a technical term meaning neither side can make any further concessions, and more bargaining is useless. The legality of the impasse depends upon whether the negotiations leading up to it were in “good faith.”

    The resort then unilaterally implemented new terms and conditions of employment; the union promptly struck and set up a picket line. The resort responded by sending letters to the strikers, stating that might be replaced if they did not return to work immediately. Three days later, the Grosvenor sent another letter telling the workers that they had been permanently replaced. About six weeks later, the strikers, almost all of whom had several years of service with the resort, unconditionally offered to return to work. The hotel refused, saying the strikers would only be considered only for a few new positions.

    NLRB and 11th Circuit Affirm Grosvenor’s Bad Faith

    In 2001, the National Labor Relations Board agreed with an ALJ that the Grosvenor had bargained in bad faith. The Board also agreed that the walkout represented an unfair labor practices strike and that the resort had interfered with workers’ exercise of their rights under the law and discriminated against them by refusing reinstatement after the workers unconditionally offered to return to work.

    Accordingly, the Board ordered immediate and full reinstatement, requiring the resort to displace subsequently hired workers if necessary, and to make the strikers whole for wages and other benefits lost as a result of the resort’s unfair labor practices.

    In December 2002, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit enforced the Board’s decision. The only remaining issue was how much backpay the strikers were entitled to.
    While there was (very) scant coverage of in the traditional media when the strike first began (even though it occurred on the normally media magnet "Walt Disney World complex"), one would have to look elsewhere to find even the above brief, and laudably dispassionate, coverage of the Florida labor struggle; indeed, one would actually find this balanced report on the web site of a law firm; and not the website of a bunch of icky union lawyers mind you, but rather the site of a law firm that represents employers.

    But this case - and along with it the indifference of Florida's corporate media - didn't end in 2002: the fight continued until September of this year (and the appeals are continuing, as I understand it); in a blockbuster decision on September 11, the Board used the Florida Grosvenor case to radically change the method by which backpay due to unlawful employer firings is calculated. One wouldn't learn this from Florida's traditional media, but would perhaps have to read this story in the leftist Wall Street Journal to know what happened to these Florida workers (those still alive that is).

    And wouldn't it have been a breath of fresh air to read an editorial about this tragic case, as well as the radical (and anti-union/worker) change in the law in Schultz' paper or, say ... the Orlando Sentinel - after all, the strike occurred on "part of the Walt Disney World complex", and has been litigated (in Orlando of all places (who knew?)) before a federal administrative judge for more than decade - with trial flourishes, vigorous cross examination, lawyers arguing with each other in open court, sharp evidentiary objections, and all that fancy schmancy courtroom stuff that people like to read about.

    Imagine (and this really requires suspension of disbelief) words kinda like the following on an editorial page somewhere in Florida:
    Consider the Bush [NLRB] appointees' Sept. 11 ruling in the case of 44 longtime employees whom a Florida resort illegally fired -- the illegality of the firings was not in question -- while they were on strike over Grosvenor of Orlando's failure to bargain in good faith with their union. At issue was the amount of back pay the resort had to pay its workers.

    The employees had been picketing for just four days when they were canned, and the picket line continued for several weeks.

    Forty-three of the 44 workers found new employment within three months of being fired. In the view of Bush's commissars, however, the picketers should have abandoned their picketing as soon as they were pink-slipped -- surrendering instantly on their efforts to compel the resort to bargain, to recover their jobs, and to retain their seniority and benefits. The board denied full back pay to workers who hadn't sought employment within two weeks of being discharged because to do so, the Bush appointees wrote in unconscious homage to Dickens, "would be to reward idleness."

    The work records of the discharged employees who stayed on the picket line too long are those of maids, waiters, kitchen and laundry workers in their 50s and 60s, all of whom resumed more or less the same work at other resorts within a few months. Reading their work histories, I doubt the idea of idleness even occurred to them. Some of them did obtain new jobs within two weeks, but their new employers didn't want them to report to work quite so soon. No matter: The board docked them for not landing what member Dennis Walsh, in an angry dissent, called "interim interim" jobs (since most of them believed they'd eventually return to Grosvenor) before their next job started.
    Surely at least some of Florida's editorial boards registered their outrage - along the above lines - at these salt of the earth Orlando workers, whose union had fought for them and won at every turn (until this September, 2007 decision), being victimized by this politically charged decision by By Dubya's right-wing appointees to the NLRB.

    Words like those quoted above in a Florida newspaper will have to remain a part of your imagination, because neither the Orlando Sentinel nor anyone else in Florida's print media had a single thing at all to say about this matter. One has to look elsewhere, to the pages Washington Post to find the above-quoted words. See "National Labor Ruination Board". To be fair, the Gainesville Sun had a November 19, 2007 guest column by a radical leftist Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Florida mentioning that "in the Grosvenor Resort case ... the board went against 40 years of precedent to make it more difficult now for union supporters victimized by illegal discrimination to file back-pay claims." To our knowledge, that was the extent of the coverage in Florida's corporate media.

    To be sure, the Grosvenor has not entirely escaped the media's laser-like attention. Just days after the NLRB's October 2007, decision the Orlando Sentinel breathlessly trumpeted (i.e., published a press release) the following news:
    To help promote its new look and name following a $25 million renovation, the Regal Sun Resort at Walt Disney World is offering discounts to Florida residents for stays at the hotel and for its MurderWatch Mystery Theatre dinner show.

    Formerly known as the Grosvenor Resort, the lakefront resort in Lake Buena Vista is offering a 2-for-1 offer for dinner-theater tickets and a resident rate for overnight stays.

    The hotel, the closest to the Downtown Disney entertainment complex, changed its name to Regal Sun Resort on Sept. 1, marking the completion of its property-wide renovation, including work on 626 guest rooms, seven suites, meeting space, lobby, restaurants and lounges. The project is complete except for some pool enhancements; at least one pool is remaining open as that work progresses.
    "Guests will be able to dine with life-size dinosaurs at Downtown Disney".

    For more on the embarrassing coverage - or lack thereof - of labor issues by Florida's traditional media see our "The Annual 'Labor Day' Insult".

    Note: We have spent considerable time researching the coverage (and lack thereof) of the Grosvenor case; if anyone knows of anything we may have missed, please advise and we make the appropriate changes/update. E-Mail FLA Politics here.


    "To understand why Gov. Crist and insurance regulators want to put Allstate executives under oath, consider what happened this month when regulators questioned Allstate about the company's request for a 42 percent property insurance rate increase." "Not 'good hands people'; bob-and-weave people". On a related note: "Insurers, state pad coffers in calm year".

    White people

    Beth Reinhard gives us the perspective of a deep thinking cosmopolitan Miamian: "To many Florida voters, New Hampshire is a strange, faraway state, where flannel outstrips flip-flops, cows outnumber condos, and the people are as white as the foam that tops our cortaditos at La Carreta and lattes at Starbucks." "Politicking's vastly different in Granite State".

    Now that the mouth breather is gone ...

    "Talk of tinkering with school grades has grown since the departure of former Gov. Jeb Bush, for whom school accountability was a hallmark legacy, said Sherman Dorn, an education professor at the University of South Florida. ... 'When Jeb Bush was governor, most of those concerns were dismissed as unimportant or irrelevant. But at this point ... a broad variety of criticism has become acceptable.'" "Lawmakers Decry FCAT Rewards".

    "Ineffective, counterproductive and wasteful"

    The Miami Herald editorial board: "Florida's approach to treating people who are mentally ill is criminal. We don't mean this in an accusatory way, even though such an accusation would be literally true. This is what we mean: In Florida, most people with serious mental illnesses are in jails and prisons -- not in psychiatric hospitals. Jail not only is the wrong place for the mentally ill, it also is ineffective, counterproductive and wasteful." "Jail is no place for the mentally ill".

    "How Florida politics works"

    Scott Maxwell: "Hometown Democracy is a story of how Florida politics works -- how politicians refuse to deal with problems until we make them." "Proposal to limit growth scares some pols".

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

    "Romney's candidacy has emboldened many members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, instilling hope that he will play a role similar to John F. Kennedy, who convinced the nation to vote for a Catholic in 1960 despite fears that he would be controlled by church leadership. The co-chairman of the Romney campaign in Sarasota is a member of the local Mormon church, and members have eagerly signed up to volunteer at phone banks or campaign door to door." "Some local Mormons see Romney's bid as a way to tell the nation about their religion".

    "At least in the red states"

    We know Mike Thomas is ... well, just being Mike Thomas, but we couldn't resist bit 'o tripe:

    Did you see that outrageous letter to the editor a British woman wrote about our pork bellies?

    Having just wound up her Disney vacation, Dee Mills wondered why Americans were "so grossly overweight."

    Here is an excerpt:

    "It was quite a disgusting spectacle to see so many fat adults wobbling around Walt Disney World with their fat kids. Mealtimes were equally disgusting, having to watch these people pack away as much food as possible without stopping to draw a breath."

    Dee then noted it was a good thing most Americans don't travel overseas because "they wouldn't fit in a normal aircraft seat anyway and are totally ill-educated, arrogant and unaware of anything outside the United States."

    None of this is technically incorrect, at least in the red states.
    "Mike Thomas: Note to Brits: How is that kidney pie?".

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