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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, April 20, 2008

Florida: "the most hostile state in the nation to new voters"

    The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "If the point of elections laws is to make voting as convenient as possible, Florida has missed it. The state has just been named by three voting rights advocacy groups [see below] as "the most hostile state in the nation to new voters." The cumulative effect of some recently passed election laws has made voter registration drives more fraught with pitfalls and registering to vote more difficult." "A state of hostility toward new voters".

    Michael Slater, deputy director of Project Vote; Wendy R. Weiser,a deputy director at The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law; and Elizabeth Westfall a senior attorney and civil rights lawyer at The Advancement Project, explain in a South Florida Sun-Sentinel op-ed online piece:
    Florida courts and election officials have put new roadblocks in the way for Floridians who want to participate in elections and exercise their right to vote. In three separate cases, the Florida Secretary of State, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and a federal District Court each issued decisions that will – absent intervention by the Governor, the Secretary of State, or the state legislature – collectively block tens of thousands of eligible Florida citizens from getting on the voter rolls and casting their ballot in the 2008 elections.
    In summary,
    1) On Monday, March 31st, Secretary of State Browning gave notice in federal court that he is terminating the standstill agreement in League of Women Voters of Fla. v. Cobb – meaning that Florida now intends to enforce a law that threatens to shut down voter registration drives by imposing a series of extremely limited deadlines for the return of voter registration forms and escalating fines on groups and their volunteers alike for innocent filing mistakes.

    2) On Thursday, April 3rd, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta reversed the December decision of a U.S. District Court Judge in Gainesville to block a statewide election law that had kept 14,000 eligible Florida citizens off of the voter rolls, and could prevent tens of thousands more from registering and voting in the 2008 elections.

    3) On March 25th, a federal district court in Miami rejected a challenge to yet another portion of Florida's voter registration law that traps voters based on meaningless mistakes. This provision prevents would-be voters who timely submit a voter registration application before the registration deadline, but inadvertently omit information from the form, to correct the application if the omission is discovered after the registration deadline.
    "Each of these legal developments in the past three weeks threatens to disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters in the 2008 elections. Each of these developments also contributes to making Florida a true outlier in the country – piling on provision after provision making it more difficult for eligible voters to register to vote ... Other recent developments that deserve immediate attention and remedies:"
    - "Florida's failure to comply with Section 7 of the federal Motor Voter law, which requires states to make voter registration available at social service agencies, resulting in significantly fewer low-income and disabled registrants than in states that comply with the law";

    - "Florida's poor record on ballot design, which could cause thousands of lost votes (as happened in 2000 and again in 2006 in Sarasota)";

    - "Florida's failure to implement safeguards against unfair purges of the voter rolls, including its failure to make its purge practices open and transparent, which makes voters vulnerable to another "suspected felon" list like those created in 2000 and 2004";

    - "Current legislative efforts to make Florida's voter identification law more onerous by prohibiting the use of certain IDs, such as photo IDs issued by nursing homes or state universities"; and

    - "Florida's failure to provide effective procedures by which to effectuate Governor Crist's executive order restoring the voting rights for people with past felony convictions".
    "Three Strikes Against Florida Voters".

    It was nice to see the The St. Petersburg Times editorial board and The South Florida Sun-Sentinel in a "op-ed online piece" pick up on this critical piece of writing. Surely others in Florida's traditional media have related this detailed piece to their readers, and we just missed it?

    Update: And precisely who is behind this newest variety of voter suppression? Believe it or not, it is "Florida's powerful business lobby" and their RPOF shills in Tallahassee; the most recent example:
    Florida's powerful business lobby has made no secret that it considers paid signature-gatherers mercenaries. But sex offenders?

    Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, last week added to a bill that would make paid signature-gatherers register with the state: a requirement that "employees or contractors" of groups pushing a ballot initiative undergo background checks to make sure they haven't committed crimes against, say, seniors or children, he said.

    Dorworth said he wasn't trying to prevent groups from trying to amend Florida's constitution but to better police those hiring paid petition-gatherers. ...

    The bill is backed by the Florida Chamber or Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida, which endorsed the changes and assailed the Florida Hometown Democracy movement for hiring out-of-state workers in its failed bid to make the 2008 ballot.
    "Whose business is it?"

    The shiny, happy Mr. Dorworth is certain to be rewarded for all his hard work by the lovely "chamber of commerce" and its allies come election time.

    "A culture of political power"

    The Tallahassee Democrat's editorial page editor, Mary Ann Lindley: "If anthropologists explore the Florida Capitol eons from now, they are likely to describe it — like the statehouse of Texas once was — 'as a place built for giants and inhabited by pygmies.'"

    It's not small physical stature that is notable among lawmakers this session, but a smallness of ideas, miserliness toward the disadvantaged, and wee courage among most rank-and-file members.
    " Here's Rubio's chance to act as a statesman".

    Rubio is a lot of things, but "statesman" he ain't. More "here": "Young, ambitious and carrying the historic handle of the first Cuban-American to lead the House, Rubio last year was anointed the conservative heir of ex-Gov. Jeb Bush and a possible future candidate for statewide office or even, someday, the White House."

    You read that right: the traditional media was actually repeating idiotic RPOF suggestions that this petulant child was "a possible future candidate for ... someday, the White House"

    This "'visibly angry' child" can't even control the House dominated by his own RPOF. Randy Schultz pulls no punches: "Term limits, rigid ideology and plain old indifference have combined to turn a serious financial problem into a potential crisis for the state. Many legislators who thought that their toughest assignment would be deciding which party to attend now have to come through in the clutch. At this point, the clutch is winning. ... These times would test even the best Legislature. And this, by far, isn't the best Legislature." "Legislature shuns scalpel, wields cleaver".

    It is noteworthy that Schultz can make his point by reference to the right wing Florida TaxWatch - even they assert that, in our the RPOFer run Legislature, "'there is no thought there. There is a culture of political power. People want to retain it more than life itself.'".

    Meanwhile, "Gelber said the Friday-to-early-Saturday battle was an outgrowth of increasing frustration on the part of the House's outnumbered Democrats that Rubio and ruling Republicans were giving short shrift to their favored bills and even bullying members with their own parliamentarian tactics. Rubio denied such claims, but he also offered no promises that the House's toxic atmosphere would soon clear." "Lawmakers in state House tough it out in 16-hour session".

    This catch by Progressive Florida speaks volumes about Mr. Rubio" "Not funny Rubio".

    Out here in the fields ...

    "Florida's tomato growers have long disputed complaints of pickers who claim that they are underpaid and that slavery still exists in some fields. Congress finally may resolve the issues."

    A Senate committee has ordered the Government Accountability Office to investigate wages and conditions of the state's farmworkers. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who chaired Tuesday's hearing of the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, wants federal investigators to verify growers' claims that pickers can earn $14 an hour, more than twice the federal minimum wage. "We are going to stay on this issue," said Sen. Sanders, who came to Florida in January to meet with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

    Maybe some picker somewhere earned $14 for 60 minutes' work at some time. But it took an Olympic-type effort, and it was the most lucrative hour of that picker's career. In the real world, the backbreaking work is intermittent and pickers earn about 45 cents per 32-pound bucket - $200 in a good week. ...

    Collier County Sheriff's Det. Charlie Frost told the committee that slavery is almost certainly "going on right now." He said "traffickers are usually subcontractors of larger corporations." Over the past few years, prosecutors have won convictions in seven cases.

    Congress is digging into the injustice in Florida's fields because growers and their associations fostered or ignored it. Bring on the investigators, and let the dirt fly.
    "Slavery? Let's find out".

    Another Bushco lapdog

    Alexander Acosta, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, on the day the paint-ballers were arrested:

    said in his opening statement before taking questions, "we believe that these defendants sought the support of Al-Qaeda to, in their own words, 'wage jihad and war against the United States,' to, quote, 'kill all the devils that we can.' They hoped that their attacks would be, in their own words, quote, 'just as good as or greater than 9/11.'"
    The Palm Beach Post's Dan Moffett writes that
    it was chilling stuff. The Bush administration had been warning Americans that terrorist sleeper cells were at work in the country. Now, here was one in Miami.

    The indictments charged the men with plotting to blow up federal buildings and the Sears Tower in Chicago. The timing was politically fortuitous for Attorney General Gonzales and the White House - coming a little more than four months from the elections to decide control of Congress.
    Moffett reminds us about "the politically ambitious Mr. Acosta":
    The Liberty City Seven caper began when Mr. Acosta was 36 and the administration's interim appointee to run the Miami office. ...

    Mr. Acosta came to the office after serving two years as assistant attorney general and Civil Rights division chief. His tenure was memorable for indifference to voting rights protection. For unstated reasons, he recused himself from congressional redistricting in Texas, a politically skewed plan that diluted minority participation and expanded the Republican majority in the House.

    The civil rights division did nothing to oppose a Georgia voter ID law that discriminated against minorities and the poor. One week before the 2004 presidential election, Mr. Acosta wrote an extraordinary letter to an Ohio federal judge, intervening in a voting rights case there. He told the judge that individuals could challenge the qualifications of other voters - a position that favored GOP efforts to disqualify minorities.

    While Mr. Acosta's anointed career was advancing, the White House and Attorney General Gonzales were working to remove from office eight U.S. attorneys who did not please the administration, in some cases because they didn't find evidence to pursue voter-fraud cases against Democrats.

    Mr. Acosta has held other news conferences to trumpet his crusade against public corruption. His office has gotten guilty pleas from two Palm Beach County commissioners, two West Palm Beach commissioners and the Broward County sheriff. But there was no camera call for the hung jury last week. Mr. Acosta released a statement saying that he was considering whether to try the Liberty City Seven again.
    "The next 9/11? Try latest fiasco".

    Happy man with "anointed career"

    Betcha didn't remember: "Prior to his service as Assistant Attorney General, Mr. Acosta served as a Senate-confirmed Member of the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB"), an independent federal agency responsible for administering and interpreting the National Labor Relations Act, the principal national statute regulating private-sector labor relations."

    And "a native of Miami, Florida, Mr. Acosta attended the Gulliver Schools in Miami. He earned his degrees from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. After graduation, he served as a law clerk to the Honorable Samuel A. Alito, Jr. on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit."

    As they sing at Disney, "It's a small world, after all ...". For a more cynical view of Mr. Acosta role in the 2004 election here.

    Ain't that Acosta feller available?

    "Crist has said little about his pending opportunity to name a state Supreme Court justice -- the first of three vacant court seats he should be able to fill over the next two years." "Vacancies may help Crist reshape state's high court".

    "Florida is losing as much as $2 billion a year"

    The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "Like water, payment of taxes often follows the path of least resistance. Florida invites consumers to flow to the Internet, where many sales escape the state's 6 percent tax. As a result, Florida is losing as much as $2 billion a year, and that amount is expected to increase."

    By law, the sales tax must be levied on any transaction in Florida subject to the tax. Tallahassee could make it happen. Unfortunately, Gov. Crist and some Republican legislators consider that to be a new tax, not tax fairness. As a result, bills that would let Florida join a national coalition to collect taxes on Internet sales have gone nowhere.

    But fortunately, the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission - by giving final approval this week - can put before voters what legislators have refused to consider. By constitutional amendment, a step made necessary by the Legislature's intransigence, voters would get to decide in November whether Florida should join the Streamlined Sales Tax Project, which allows states to agree on standards for taxing Internet sales.

    While retailers with stores in Florida must collect the sales tax, even on Internet sales, those with no physical presence in the state are free of the requirement. ...

    This loophole penalizes Florida disproportionately because, with no income tax, the sales tax is the state's main source of revenue. Declining sales-tax collections are the biggest reason legislators have cut $5 billion from next year's budget.
    "Here's a $2 billion idea: Apply sales tax fairly".

    Brilliant: "non-insurance insurance"

    "The state House early Saturday passed a health-insurance program that Republicans said would benefit Floridians by giving them choices on coverage but that Democrats blasted as offering only the illusion of coverage, with one calling it 'non-insurance insurance.'" "Insurance program passes, but blasted by Democrats".

    "Crist is marching into the final days of the legislative session hoping to bring home his one priority that can't fall victim to state budget reductions. His health insurance proposal doesn't cost the state a cent, which means it can't be cut by bean counters frantically looking for savings. But the issue has forced Crist into another staring contest with a familiar foe: House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami." "Post: Crist, Rubio rivalry revived as both turn to health insurance".

    Laff riot

    "Republican presidential candidate Arizona Sen. John McCain, whom Crist backs, and Jim Greer, whom Crist chose to be chairman of the state Republican Party, are trying to follow the same path. McCain plans a series of town hall meetings this month in Democratic strongholds, including inner-city neighborhoods. Greer is continuing what he says will be a sustained pitch to black and Hispanic Floridians." "GOP Targets Black Voters".

    Perhaps McBush's advanced stage of dementia will help him explain his sordid record, including these factoids:

    - "McCain Consistently Voted Against The Civil Rights Act Of 1990. In 1990, McCain voted against a bill designed to address employer discrimination at least 4 times. According to the Washington Post, the 'Civil Rights Act of 1990 is designed to overturn several recent Supreme Court rulings that made it much more difficult for individual employees to prove discrimination. The legislation, being fought by business, also would impose new penalties on employers convicted of job discrimination.' [S 2104, Vote #304, 10/24/90; Vote #276, Vote #275, 10/16/90; Vote #161]".

    - "Oscar Tillman with the Phoenix branch of the NAACP said McCain 'has pretty well zero relationship' and state Rep. Cloves Campbell Jr., D-Phoenix, said McCain has 'no relationship' with the black community in Arizona, The Politico said Tuesday." "McCain has strained relations with blacks".

    - "In 2000, Richard Quinn, McCain’s South Carolina spokesperson in 2000, called the MLK holiday 'vitriolic and profane.' McCain defended Quinn, calling him a 'respected' and 'fine man,' refusing to fire him. McCain’s current campaign has paid the firm Richard Quinn and Associates $180,000."

    - "In 2000, McCain called the [confederate] flag 'offensive.' Later, he lauded it as a 'battle flag' and a 'symbol of heritage.'".

    - "'In a word, none,' said Ron Busby, president of the Greater Phoenix Black Chamber of Commerce, when asked to describe the senator's relationship with Arizona's African-American community. In the 10 years that the organization, which represents about 300 black-owned businesses, has been in existence, Busby said McCain has never been to any of its events." "Arizona Blacks: Where's McCain?"

    - When then-Arizona Governor Evan Mecham* rescinded Martin Luther King Day as a state holiday, McCain said Mecham was "correct in his decision."

    - "McCain joined Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson in September 2007 in skipping PBS’ presidential debate, which featured 'a panel exclusively comprised of journalists of color.'"

    Much more at the "ColorOfChange.org" here.
    - - - - - - - - - -
    *Some of you may not remember Mr. Mecham, the fellow McCain supported in his anti-MLK decision; Mecham was "the first U.S. governor to simultaneously face removal from office through impeachment, a scheduled recall election, and a felony indictment." This fellow (who McCain thought was it was "correct in his decision" to rescind MLK day, also "defended the use of the word 'pickaninny' to describe black children".

    Mike Thomas is ...

    ... oh, so ... clever: "Tricky pick: Our 'greenest' president was . . .".

    Divorce rates "should be more disturbing to people who believe in traditional"

    The South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Alva James-Johnson: "In November, Floridians will vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit marriage to a man and a woman. It doesn't matter that the state already has a law banning homosexual marriage. Proponents of Florida4Marriage want heterosexual marriage ingrained in the state constitution to protect it from legal challenge. The amendment, which landed on the ballot with 649,000 petitions and the help of local churches, needs 60 percent of the popular vote to pass. You can bet religious conservatives will be at the polls in full force."

    That's all good and well. But the truth is that marriage, no matter the sexual orientation of the people involved, is no longer valued in our society. And advocates of traditional marriage have lost much of their credibility due to the high rate of divorce in their midst.

    Born-again Christians divorce at about the same rate as the general public, according to the Barna Research Group, a polling and marketing organization that specializes in religion. The divorce rates were 32 and 33 percent, respectively. ...

    "There no longer seems to be much of a stigma attached to divorce; it is now seen as an unavoidable rite of passage," George Barna, the author of the report, said on his Web site. "Interviews with young adults suggest that they want their initial marriage to last, but are not particularly optimistic about that possibility. There is also evidence that many young people are moving toward embracing the idea of serial marriage, in which a person gets married two or three times, seeking a different partner for each phase of their adult life."

    That should be more disturbing to people who believe in traditional marriage than same-sex unions.
    "Make Marriage Matter".

    Webster, an "outside-the-box" kinda guy

    John Kennedy and Aaron Deslatte write that Danny "Webster, R-Winter Garden, has a reputation as an outside-the-box transportation thinker. And his latest idea -- once members get over their initial shock -- just might fly." "Call it Tobacco Road?"

    Florida, a nice place to retire

    "Haz-Mat Team Called In As Nursing Home Evacuated".

    We Floridians don't need no stinkin' research

    "South Florida's two public universities are considering closing research centers as they grapple with dwindling state dollars. ... Among those that may close are the Center for Economic Research and Education, Future Aerospace Science and Technology Center and Institute for Children and Families at Risk." "FAU and FIU consider closing research centers in tight budget year".

    Same old song

    Foster's "Swanee River" Will Remain State Song"".

    Captains courageous

    The Orlando Sentinel editorial board is never afraid to take a controversial stance: "State lawmakers can't be bothered by things like protecting the state's more than 700 springs -- not when they're busy getting lost in the thickets of the state budget." "If legislators don't act now, region's springs could be ruined".

    Lipstick on a pig

    "Revamped standards and a toned-down atmosphere could redefine the dreaded test." "A new FCAT without the hype?".

    Voucher madness

    The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "Voucher supporters, though, are being hypocritical. Since corporate vouchers began under former Gov. Bush, advocates have claimed that they create competition for public schools. But those advocates have refused to make the private schools administer tests that would allow a direct comparison. For private religious schools, the state has said that it's enough for the parents to be happy. Why don't public school parents have that option?" "Poor-student hypocrisy".

    "This latest scheme really nothing new at all"

    The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Florida has a history of buying into expensive new programs to fix our schools, yet our graduation rates remain at the bottom of the barrel. Officials never bother to find out why previous efforts failed before buying into something new. Which in Florida education makes this latest scheme really nothing new at all." "Leaders Fail To Do Homework In Dash To Remake Schools".

    Sea cows

    "Hundreds of docks are being built in Broward and Palm Beach counties now that the federal government has lifted a marine-construction moratorium that had been imposed to protect manatees. While developers say these projects support a vital part of South Florida's economy, environmentalists worry that the onslaught of boats will harm the slow-moving marine mammals even with protection measures in place." "As South Florida marina construction grows, so does environmentalist's manatee anxiety".

    Another delightful "public-private partnership"

    The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "Florida's population is past 18 million and growing. The price of oil is at a stunning all-time high. Cars spew out pollutants as they idle on the state's most crowded roads."

    It all points to the need for commuter rail service. But at what cost?

    That's the question legislators are wrestling with this session, as they consider a deal with the national transport company CSX that would free up 61 miles of existing freight-train track leading into Orlando for a commuter rail line serving four counties.

    There is much to recommend this public-private partnership.
    "A rail dilemma".

    "Meet the Florida superdelegates"

    "They are a bunch of mostly middle-aged lawyers and politicians who can't decide between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. But there's also a 37-year-old single mom and an 80-year-old grandmother, a retired small-town millworker and an author of best-selling books on corporate America, as well as a couple of supporters of former candidates John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich." "Florida superdelegates could be super tiebreakers".

    Sunday Ruth

    "A Few Jaded Pearls Of Reader Wisdom On Home Security And Politics".

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