FLORIDA POLITICS
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 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, August 10, 2008

Florida, "last in the nation"

    The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "In 2015, just a few years from now, Florida will be in deep trouble."
    Who wants the dubious notoriety of "last in the nation?"

    Last in education. Last in life expectancy. Last in new business. Last in quality and quantity of doctors per population.

    It seems unbelievable, but last-place rankings will be an unintended consequence of decisions made by today's state and federal lawmakers and today's courts. Those decisions already are pushing us toward the bottom in health care access.

    With too few new doctors choosing to come to Florida, it will not be long till our seniors understand their health is at risk. Retirees will stop coming and those here will start to leave.
    Much more here: "Florida's Coming Medical Disaster".


    Obama's crushing Florida ground game

    "Amid the growing visibility of a huge Obama campaign under way in this must-win state for McCain, loyal Republicans have been waiting for signs of life on their side. 'Whatever they're doing on the grass roots campaign clearly is not working,' said Republican consultant Doug McAlarney of Tallahassee." "90 days left, time to move voters".

    "But with well over 200 full-time staffers in Florida — four times as many as McCain and the Republicans — and some 150,000 Florida volunteers registered online, Obama is building a Democratic campaign machine that could finally challenge the GOP's mastery of ground-game tactics." "McCain, Obama Florida machines get cranking".


    Seems we're stuck with Charlie

    "He already seemed like a long shot, and then this week McCain faced some lousy national publicity and had to return $50,000 of suspicious campaign donations funneled through Charlie Crist's pal and top fundraiser, Harry Sargeant III of Boca Raton." "Veep-O-Meter retires along with Crist's VP hopes".

    Adam C. Smith put it this way:

    McCain owes a lot to Crist, but tapping him for veep would guarantee a lot more scrutiny of Crist's newly controversial political benefactor.
    Goodness knows there will not be any scrutiny by Florida's newspaper company owners and their employees.


    Poor Tom

    "Democrats consider Republican incumbent Tom Feeney vulnerable in his campaign to represent the 24th district in the U.S. House of Representatives because of his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In 2003, Feeney took a trip to Scotland with Abramoff. Feeney has reimbursed the federal treasury $5,600 for the trip, but Justice Department investigators have questioned him in the wake of the Abramoff scandal. Add in national sentiment for change because of frustration with the war in Iraq, along with a stagnant economy, and Democrats are sensing an opportunity in the Republican stronghold covering Southeast Volusia, as well as parts of Brevard, Orange and Seminole counties." "Challengers see opportunity to unseat Feeney".


    And then there's Florida's budget deficit

    The Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial board: "Florida's budget picture has worsened every quarter of this year. Friday -- less than seven weeks into the state's fiscal year -- state economists are expected to announce a pending deficit in the hundreds of millions of dollars. That leaves Gov. Charlie Crist with difficult choices."

    The responsible solution is clear: Call the Legislature back into session, and tell it to find the money to keep Florida's budget afloat without making further cuts to services or raiding reserves. The AARP/TaxWatch coalition offers several suggestions, including collecting sales tax on Floridians' Internet purchases and claiming millions of dollars in federal grants that the state has failed to apply for.
    "State income grim, but deeper service cuts unwise".

    And good luck with this - Jebbie's signature "achievement". The editors argue that Florida's
    Lawmakers also should roll back tax cuts that benefited wealthy investors while producing no noticeable boost to Florida's economy.
    That last thing, reinstating the "intangibles" tax is an obvious issue.

    Perhaps Florida's newspaper companies - beyond the The Daytona Beach News-Journal - will remind Floridians of the damage caused by this stupid decision by "Jeb Bush And His Amen Chorus Of Goose-Stepping Legislators", and join in the call for restoration of the intangibles tax (and at a higher rate).


    "We'll figure that part out later"

    Howard Troxler makes Amendment 5 simple: "Here is the plan: We'll figure that part out later. Yep, that's the plan." "The latest tax idea: Leap first, look later".

    More from the Miami Herald: "Assuming a judge doesn't knock it off the Nov. 4 ballot this week, a $9.3 billion to $11 billion tax-swap proposal for schools would force the Legislature to make some tough decisions."

    The unknowns, however, dominate, considering that the amendment calls for:

    • A review of some special interest sales-tax exemptions, ranging from car trade-ins to charter-fishing boats to school textbooks and lunches to newspaper advertising. If all those exemptions were eliminated, the state would get an additional $4 billion a year. The amendment prohibits lawmakers from touching another $8 billion in sales-tax exemptions because they cover food, health services and aid for the poor.

    • A one-cent increase to the six-cent sales tax. That would probably raise $4 billion in the budget year beginning in July 2010. But whether this will help or hurt the economy is hotly contested.

    • More budget cuts. It's not clear how much is left to trim after lawmakers cut $6 billion over the past year, and more trims are likely to be needed as the economy continues to falter.

    • Other unspecified tax increases. These could include legalizing more video-lottery gambling (nearly $1 billion a year), taxes on cigarettes or booze (more than $1 billion), making all corporations in the state pay taxes ($365 million), stocks-and-bonds taxes ($830 million) or up to $23 billion by imposing sales and use taxes on services ranging from haircuts to accounting to limousines.

    • A five percent cap on the assessed value increases of non-homesteaded properties. Voters in January approved a first-ever cap of 10 percent. (Owners of primary homes already have a 3 percent yearly cap, known as Save Our Homes.)
    More details here: "Amendment 5 tax swap a math problem".

    Aaron Deslatte writes that "Florida voters this fall could decide on several ballot proposals that blatantly mix and match public wants and political necessities. Thanks to logrolling by the state's powerful Tax and Budget Reform Commission, voters will be enticed by promises of lower property taxes and more classroom spending to vote for constitutional amendments that also would force higher sales taxes and allow more taxpayer-funded school vouchers." Problem is, since 1998
    voters have passed 25 of 26 statewide constitutional amendments placed on the ballot.

    This new willingness of voters to go along with constitutional rewrites was why business groups and Republican lawmakers in 2006 won passage of constitutional language raising the bar for passing amendments from a simple majority to 60 percent.

    "Fifteen years ago, Florida voters who were a little confused tended to vote 'no,' " said University of Central Florida political scientist Aubrey Jewett, who has written a book about Florida ballot initiatives. "Nowadays, it seems Floridians are very likely to say 'yes.' "

    The Florida Supreme Court has ruled summaries and titles of amendments put on the ballot by citizens and cannot "fly under false colors" or "hide the ball" from voters.

    But the Legislature and review commissions are held to a lesser standard. Consider Amendment 9, also put on the ballot by the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission.

    It combines a seemingly common-sense mandate that school districts spend 65 percent of their budgets on classroom instruction -- 61 of 67 school districts already meet this standard -- with a policy shift that could allow more tax dollars to flow to private-school vouchers.
    "Today's voters more likely to say 'yes' to ballot measures than those of yesteryear".


    ... and nobody came

    "Imagine this scenario: Barack Obama wins Florida in November, and those 27 electoral votes enable him to reach the magic, winning number of 270 electoral votes. But Obama can't actually claim victory because Florida Democrats neglected to properly elect the 27 presidential electors who ultimately vote for a president." "Democrats lack quorum for presidential electors".


    Sink to swap?

    "Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink told the Buzz last week that while she hasn't taken a formal position on constitutional Amendment 5, she's leaning against it." "Sink not on board with 'tax swap,' yet".


    Rouson believes in evolution

    Bill Maxwell asks "What is the difference between 'evolving' and 'flip-flopping'?"



    State Rep. Darryl Rouson is tussling with this question as the Aug. 26 District 55 Democratic primary approaches because he has gone from opposing same-sex adoption to publicly supporting it.

    Now, Rouson, an attorney and former president of the St. Petersburg chapter of the NAACP, must explain his new stance to some of his old friends and to his many skeptics who think they see a case of cynical politics unfolding.
    Rouson explains:
    "I haven't flip-flopped. I have become educated.
    "On same-sex adoption, candidate does a 180".

    Those liberals on the St. Petersburg Times editorial board have endorsed Rouson in the primary over "Charles McKenzie, 52, a former Pinellas teacher and minister, has led the state Rainbow PUSH coalition and fought for farmworker rights."


    And then there's Tally

    "Although the Democrats expect this to be a good year nationally, that political momentum may not filter its way down to state legislative races. Political strategists say Republicans are likely to retain their nearly 2-to-1 advantage in the Florida House and Senate, aided by legislative district lines that were drawn by the GOP in 2002 to favor their party." "Experts: GOP to retain control in Fla.".


    The residency thing

    "Defining 'home' can be a stretch for politicians" and "Looking past residency, voters feel at home with Wexler".


    Randy Schultz

    Randy Schultz: "The state got by for so long on agriculture, tourism and services, all of which run mostly on lower-wage jobs that don't require an undergraduate degree, much less an advanced degree. But since 2003, the housing bubble and hurricanes have made Florida more expensive, and there aren't enough higher-paying jobs to keep the economy humming. This may be the fourth-largest state, but it has the manufacturing/industrial base of a country that sends 10 athletes to the Olympics. Study after study has shown the link between better jobs and better universities."

    All that is true, but Schultz loses me with when he continues with this:

    Yet the push from business hasn't come. Maybe now?

    "I think that (the budget cuts) have had positive unintended consequences," [Dr. Mark Rosenberg, chancellor of the university system] said. "I think the mobilization has started." He means that the power hitters - the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida - may be ready to start lobbying the Legislature.
    "Florida's skinflint sheepskins".

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