Since 2002, daily Florida political news and commentary


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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, September 01, 2009

The RPOF has turned Bright Futures "into a hoodwink"

    The Daytona Beach News Journal editors remind of us the recent damage by Crist and the RPOFers to Florida's Bright Futures program:

    "The luster is dimming on Bright Futures. For students, Florida's most successful scholarship program is turning into a hoodwink. The award that once covered well-performing students' tuition at Florida colleges and universities is now guaranteed to lose value every year. It's also piling up potential penalties, as students all over the state are discovering this fall. Students are leaving school or finding themselves unable to register for lack of a few hundred dollars' difference that Bright Futures no longer covers. Schools are also dropping students out of all their courses even for modest overdue tuition charges."

    "Until last year, Bright Futures did as intended since its creation in 1997."
    It covered full tuition to students with GPAs of 3.5 or better, and covered 75 percent of tuition for students with GPAs between 3 and 3.5. It did so no matter how much tuition increased year after year (as it has). The program cost $380 million last year. Taxpayers didn't foot the bill. The state lottery, which generated $4.12 billion in sales, did. The program's funding source is not in danger. But the Legislature sees that source as the end-all of education funding. It raids it to fund a lot more than Bright Futures. Last year, [the Legislature] broke its promise to Bright Futures recipients. ...

    Lawmakers are slashing at the wrong end. Bright Futures could have used some reform. But the priority should have been on ensuring that poorer but well-performing students were not at risk of losing a portion of their scholarship. Florida isn't a wealthy state. Nor is it a state with a long tradition of higher education. Thousands of students entering college this fall are the first in their family to do so. Many are poor. The slow devaluation of Bright Futures will hurt them most, eroding their ability to stay in college.

    Some students may have to work more to pay their bills. Some may find that dropping classes is essential to balancing their responsibilities. But doing so compounds the penalty: They have to reimburse the state for their Bright Futures award immediately once they drop a course or be booted out of school. And dropping a course may have worse penalties. Before this year, Bright Futures students could keep their scholarship with just six credits per semester. Now they have to register for 12. So here's the state essentially imposing new costs on students with one hand while doubling the punishment with the other, when students can't pay. The reimbursement requirement, being a consequence of the state's decision to decrease Bright Futures funding, should have been structured in such a way as to allow students to pay back the state over the course of a year or more rather than jeopardize their enrollment.

    The state may be saving money by reducing awards, but it's short-changing the futures of thousands of students. As it stands, Bright Futures is now a misnomer.
    "Bright Futures' dusk".

    "The governor blatantly served himself"

    "Anyone hoping Gov. Charlie Crist would make an enlightened choice to capably represent Florida in the U.S. Senate until we elect someone next year is bound to be disappointed."

    But then, we're getting used to that.

    He could have picked a former congressman, a former U.S. attorney or a former big-city mayor to fill the rest of Mel Martinez's term. Instead he picked his best friend and former chief of staff George LeMieux to hold up Florida's end in national debates over health care, homeland security and education until, the governor hopes, he can do the job himself. ...

    The governor blatantly served himself, not the people of Florida, with this appointment.
    "Taxing time for officials".

    The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "He picked a South Florida guy, just not the right one."
    In doing so, the governor compounded the disappointment over Martinez quitting by disappointingly picking a relative novice to occupy the seat for a year. ...

    No offense to Tallahassee, but Capitol Hill is a much more intense place. It's hard to see how LeMieux, in a compressed, short time frame, is going to learn enough about federal entitlement programs, and the ways of the Congress, to make a difference for Florida, or America, at such a critical juncture.

    Can't blame floridians if they conclude the governor didn't make the best of the opportunity he was given.
    "Crist makes wrong pick in U.S. Senate at critical juncture".


    "With a ban on an income tax written into Florida's constitution, state and local governments are paid for primarily through sales and property taxes."

    Both revenue streams are much more dependent on population growth than an income tax would be. And Florida's constitution limits the growth on assessed values of homestead properties to no more than three percent a year. ...

    In 2007, Florida voters passed property tax reform that also limits the increase in the assessed value of non-homestead properties to 10 percent a year. The same constitutional amendment also doubled the homestead exemption to $50,000 for all but school taxes.

    The Legislature this spring approved putting a new constitutional amendment to voters that would lower that cap to 5 percent.
    "State sunk by tax cap".

    Never mind

    "[T]he 15-page report doesn't say whether the reductions were the result of more efficient management of patients or worse care." "UF study of Medicaid program shows savings".

    Where are the freaks screaming about rationing health care when you need them?

    Cuba policy on the ropes

    "The Cuban embargo continues to divide the exile community, though support seems to be eroding, a recent poll reveals."

    The single question was posed last month to 400 Cuban Americans, mainly in Florida:

    Are you in favor or against continuing the U.S. embargo on Cuba?

    • 41 percent said they are against keeping the embargo.

    • 40 said they were for it.

    • 19 percent said they didn't know or gave no answer.

    Pollsters said the response shows the topic remains a highly emotional one in Florida and nationwide.
    "Poll: Support for Cuban embargo eroding".

    What the RPOF calls "more freedom"

    The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "In May, the staff lobbyist for the Florida Public Service Commission 'dropped by' a Kentucky Derby party at the home of a Florida Power & Light executive in Palm Beach Gardens. Ryder Rudd, the recent recipient of an 8 percent pay increase, claims he and his wife took time out from their vacation so he could mingle and gather information from the executives of the state's biggest electric utility on behalf of the ratepayers of Florida. But mint juleps, utility executives and PSC staffers should never mix." "Regulators get too cozy with utilities".

    Kudos to the The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Florida's $65 billion-a-year tourism industry has faced a lot of challenges in recent years, from hurricanes to spikes in gasoline prices to a meltdown in the nation's economy. State regulators can't do anything about those. But they could help the industry fight back against another problem, if they would only get serious about health and safety violations at Florida hotels and motels."

    As a recent two-day report in the Sentinel made clear, the state's Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Division of Hotels and Restaurants has taken a far too lenient approach to its responsibilities at hotels and motels.
    "Act like real regulators". Background: "Does Florida lack teeth in punishing dirty hotels?" ("analysis of state inspections suggest officials do little to make sloppy hotels and motels fear state regulators.")

    "Simply do the political calculation"

    Mike Thomas writes that "[e]verything is a political calculation with Charlie Crist. And so it's easy to understand his attraction to the climate-change issue." So, although 2006 was

    a down year for Republicans, two of them did quite well in 2006 — Crist and California's Arnold Schwarzenegger, who won re-election by a landslide.

    Schwarzenegger was a national leader on climate change. He demonstrated the issue cut across party lines, making it perfect for Republicans seeking to broaden their base.

    Charlie wanted in on Arnold's action.

    And so he brought Schwarzenegger here to headline his Florida Summit on Global Climate Change.

    This was Crist's first major initiative as governor and his first time on the national stage. He was a sensation.

    Editorial boards gushed as he signed executive orders that would put Florida on a California path ... .
    "It's nonstop wow politics, based on the premise that people remember that first big image and then zone out on the details."
    "On his way to padding his record-breaking Senate campaign account, Crist — the one-time environmental governor — has gutted the state's growth management laws, trashed its water-permitting process and walked away from a laudable climate-change agenda," wrote the St. Petersburg Times this week.

    The Times actually seems surprised.

    But predicting Crist is simple. Simply do the political calculation.
    Much more here, including a well deserved shot at Florida's easily co-opted environmental community: "Crist the climate-change crusader is gone with the wind (power)".

    Bill's crystal ball

    "Health care reform will pass Congress this year, but without many of the provisions in the House bill and without a public option." "Sen. Nelson: Health Care Reform to Pass".

    "A whopping blow"

    "The recession has dealt a whopping blow to the nation's fourth-most-populous state. Unemployment is soaring. The state is second to California in the number of foreclosures. Earlier this month came the most jaw-dropping announcement of all: The state that had made population growth the linchpin of its economy for more than 60 years lost a net 58,000 people in the 12 months ending April 1, according to newly released estimates." "As population drops, is Fla. losing its luster?".

    The best LeMieux could do?

    Update: "Flagler track owners blast Crist's gambling deal".

    "With hours to spare before a legislatively imposed deadline, Gov. Charlie Crist and the Seminole Tribe quietly signed a gambling agreement Monday that will keep slot machines and blackjack at the tribe's South Florida casinos. In exchange, the tribe would pay the state $150 million a year."

    The deal was signed behind closed doors and without the pomp and fanfare that characterized a similar agreement signed by the governor and the tribe in November 2007. That agreement was invalidated by the Florida Supreme Court because the Legislature had not authorized it.
    "Latest Seminole gambling deal could be a tough sell".

    See also "“Red flags” in Crist-Seminoles gambling deal, Galvano says", "Crist, Seminoles sign compact that still must get lawmakers' OK", "Gov. Crist signs gambling compact", "Gov. Crist signs casino deal with Seminole Tribe", "Crist signs new gambling pact with Seminole tribe" and "Highlights of the state casino deal with the Seminole Tribe".

    The rich are different

    "Pat Rooney Jr. — the president of the Palm Beach Kennel Club dog track, restaurateur, attorney, radio personality, South Florida Water Management District board member and older brother of Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney — says he’s leaning toward running for a northern Palm Beach County state House seat [HD 38] next year and will announce his plans in September." "Pat Rooney Jr. leaning toward state House run; decision in September".

    Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay

    The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Nearly two years ago, Palm Beach County commissioners wondered aloud whether the cities bordering Lake Okeechobee could survive." "No bailout for Glades cities".

    Luv 4 sale

    "Charlie Crist S. Fla fundraising spree".

    "Crist's selection of his friend for Senate disappoints"

    The Miami Herald editorial board: "By selecting George LeMieux, his former chief of staff and past campaign manager to serve as senator, the governor picked a loyal bench-warmer and seasoned GOP operative while Mr. Crist runs for the same Washington job."

    How convenient.

    Mr. Crist displayed a total disregard for more experienced former and current members of Congress and legislators -- and other qualified candidates with no U.S. Senate ambitions -- who could have stepped in without a hitch. It was a predictable pick by a governor who has lost touch with many Floridians and has backtracked on some of his moderate positions.
    "LeMieux must show loyalty to Florida".

    Troxler puts it more bluntly: "LeMieux's there to choose the office drapes for Crist".

    Trying to avid those "large fee increases"

    "Florida drivers overwhelmed the state's computers as thousands tried to get licenses and registrations ahead of large fee increases." "Drivers crash state's computer system in late scramble to avoid fee hikes". More from Sreve Bousquet: "Long lines and computer backups on eve of higher fees for car tags, drivers' licenses".

    St. Pete

    "A small army of contenders will battle it out for the mayor's job today. ... The two top voter-getters will go on to the election Nov. 3." "A group of 10 contests St. Pete mayor's race".

    Entrepreneurs in action

    "A Miami Beach munitions 'genius' with a $300 million Pentagon contract could face up to five years in prison after pleading guilty to a fraud charge." "Miami Beach weapons wunderkind pleads guilty to defrauding U.S.".

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