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 Sunday, October 25, 2009

"Crist appears to be running scared"

    William March thinks Charlie may "be running scared."
    Rubio has cut his 35-percentage-point deficit to 15 percent, a recent Quinnipiac University poll found. Increasingly, Crist seems out of tune with the hard-edged, talk-show conservatism dominating Republican Party rhetoric nationwide.

    "Marco Rubio has awakened the Republican primary voters and this is a race now," said Marian Johnson, political strategist for the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

    In response, Crist has stopped ignoring Rubio - the typical approach of a front-runner - and is ramping up his campaign, pushing his conservative credentials.

    He has begun running radio ads touting those credentials - ads that Rubio backers say exaggerate his tax- and budget-cutting record.
    "Even assuming Crist wins the primary, the battle against Rubio won't help him against Meek."
    "It's going to be tricky for Crist to keep those high ratings with indies (no-party voters) if he moves too far to the right in the primary" to hold off Rubio, said Eric Schultz of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.

    Crist has long appealed to crossover Democrats and no-party voters, expanding his support. In recent polls, his approval ratings among no-party voters have edged higher than his approval ratings in his own party.
    "He is showing signs of rightward movement to address that."
    •In recent weeks, state Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer, chosen by Crist for the post, has become a fountain of extreme anti-Obama rhetoric. He has claimed, for example, that health care reform could lead to "forced abortions."

    •Crist will headline a Christian Family Coalition dinner in Miami in November; he recently showed up at the Apostolic and Prophetic Conference of the El Rey Jesus ministry in Miami.

    •His radio ads bash Obama's stimulus spending and boast that Crist has cut state spending and taxes.
    "Crist foe casting bigger shadow".

    Aaron Deslatte: "The days when Charlie Crist's popularity seemed lighter than air are over. The first-term governor and U.S. Senate front-runner has run into polling that suggests the public is souring on his job performance and looking more closely at his GOP primary rival next year, former House Speaker Marco Rubio." "Crist ready to engage?"

    Entrepreneurs in action

    "State rarely punishes rogue debt collectors".

    A hug too far

    "Crist's decision to embrace President Barack Obama is helping Marco Rubio build a more credible campaign in the Republican Senate primary."

    Crist was never supposed to have a serious primary challenger, but Rubio is building momentum and closing a gap in polls.
    "Obama hug lingers as Crist seeks Fla. Senate seat".

    Campaign season

    "Since taking office nearly three years ago, Attorney General Bill McCollum has scheduled nearly a year's worth of half-days, personal and vacation days, or weekdays with no planned events. Over the same time, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink scheduled the equivalent of more than 26 weeks of half-days, personal and vacation days, or days with no listed events, according to a Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times review."

    McCollum's schedule emerges as the most lax. He had 210 weekdays -- the equivalent of 42 work weeks -- in which he worked four hours or less, had nothing scheduled or took "personal'' and vacation time. Of those days, 158 were half-days in which his schedule shows events and meetings lasting four hours or less. He scheduled 86 personal days.
    "Candidates for governor have work schedules most can only dream of". Related: "Gov. Charlie Crist's official schedule shows he takes off about 10 weeks a year".

    Serial bar flunker makes "false" claims

    "In a recent Fox News interview, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist boasted about Cover Florida Health Care, an effort to provide low-cost healthcare coverage to the nearly four million uninsured in the state."

    Given all the debate over the high cost of healthcare, we wondered if the plan could be as inexpensive as Crist claims. [The Miami Herald] found he was distorting the savings by mixing apples and oranges. ...

    Crist is using sleight-of-hand, comparing numbers that aren't comparable.
    And then there's this:
    To date, about 4,500 people have enrolled -- about 0.1 percent of the state's uninsured population.
    "Crist exaggerates benefits of Cover Florida Health Care program" ("We rate his claim False").

    Redistricting ... or not

    "Florida is cruising toward a monumental decision in 2010 about how to redraw its political maps. Or it isn't." "Florida political parties may struggle over district remapping plans".


    "Some megawealthy flee taxes by moving to Florida".

    "Voters wanted Martinez in that job, not a sidekick"

    Jane Healy: "Martinez now has become a partner in a law firm, and George LeMieux, a crony of Gov. Charlie Crist, is Florida's new senator after Crist appointed him to the job. But voters wanted Martinez in that job, not a sidekick of the governor's. And as a placeholder for Crist, who is a candidate for the seat, he won't get near the respect a Florida senator deserves." "Martinez's, Palin's and Wexler's lame excuses for quitting".

    "State's largest utilities are dragging their feet"

    The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "Municipal electric services, including those in Tallahassee, Gainesville and Lakeland, are innovative in actively encouraging customers to be smart about their energy use. This also reduces the costs of utility production for the cities."

    Yet the state's largest utilities are dragging their feet when it comes to encouraging energy efficiency.

    The Florida Public Service Commission is even being advised by its own staff to go easy on Big Energy when it comes to meeting requirements of the Florida Energy Efficiency Conservation Act. By this law, the PSC must set and review utility conservation goals every five years.
    "Energy efficiency goals are needed now".

    Depends what you mean by "shovel-ready"

    Mark Lane: "It has not escaped the U.S. Department of Transportation's notice that Florida is pretty terrible about committing to and funding mass transit aside from buses."

    If a state can't do commuter rail, how can you expect it to do high-speed rail?

    Well, it's funny what a few frank words from a secretary of transportation can do. The governor and Senate President Jeff Atwater now are up for a third try at helping commuter rail. Both building the SunRail system, which would connect Volusia County with Orlando and the big world beyond, and finding a stable fund source for Tri-Rail in south Florida. A December special session could wrap it all up as a Christmas present.

    And both high-speed rail and SunRail, say supporters, are shovel-ready.

    "Shovel-ready" either means the groundwork is there for a fast startup or the Legislature is poised to bury these things.

    One or the other.
    "And that will be up to House Speaker by Accident Larry Cretul. A special session can't happen without his signing on and he's characteristically slow to say either yes or no to the idea."
    Philosophically, Cretul opposes federal stimulus spending. And he'd prefer a more limited, narrower Seminole gaming pact than anything the tribe is remotely interested in discussing. Still, he hasn't ruled these things out, either.

    If I had any idea what he will do, that would make an excellent close to this column. Still, I'm guessing that legislators will need to take their Christmas sweaters out of storage because you would not believe how cold Tallahassee can get in winter.
    "Gambling, trains get bundled".

    "Talk about a sideshow"

    The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board this morning: "The Republican legislative caucus that approved an insurance plan in 2008 that has failed to cover a single Floridian now has another health care plan that is more politics than policy. Sen. Carey Baker of Eustis and Rep. Scott Plakon of Longwood are pushing a state constitutional amendment aimed at exempting Floridians and their employers from any potential federal mandate requiring Americans to buy health insurance."

    Talk about a sideshow. ...

    One in four Floridians under 65 doesn't have health insurance — the second worst uninsured rate in the nation. Yet the Legislature has yet to respond to the crisis in a meaningful way.

    Last year's solution was to create Florida Health Choices Corp. to help small businesses buy employee coverage. Enrollees to date: zero. And Gov. Charlie Crist's Cover Florida program claims more than 4,000 enrollees since February — a pittance compared to the 77,000 Floridians who are estimated to have lost insurance in the same period.
    Read it all here: "GOP politics trumps policy".

    "Forget the jet. Hire a makeover specialist"

    Randy Schultz: "How generous that Florida Power & Light won't try to bill customers for the cost of flying executives on the corporate jet to hearings where FPL is asking to raise customers' rates, and for a new jet. FPL also won't try to make customers pay for $72 million in bonuses. The utility will ask customers for half that amount. Shareholders will pick up the rest."

    Schultz continues, writing that

    FPL has been off its game since 2006, when the company foolishly tried to bankroll anyone who might defeat Gov. Crist. His two appointees to the Public Service Commission are FPL's biggest critics.

    Wondering about FPL, however, means wondering about the parent company, FPL Group, based in Juno Beach. Nationally, FPL Group and FPL back cap-and-trade legislation designed to reduce greenhouse gases. FPL produces only 6 percent of its energy from coal, and would benefit more than the coal-fired utilities of the Midwest. Outside of Florida, FPL Group is a leader in renewable energy, especially wind power.

    Regulated FPL, though, remains the power behind FPL Group. FPL contributes 70 percent of the parent company's revenue. As growth in Florida has stalled, so has FPL revenue. Perhaps that explains the odd side businesses and FPL's clumsy campaign tactics, which include attempts to stack hearings.

    Even when FPL Group in July announced a 77 percent profit increase for the last quarter, the stock price fell because FPL income was stagnant. The stock has fallen since July, even as the overall market has risen. You can see why FPL worries about the reaction if the company doesn't get all or most of that $1.2 billion. ...

    Having followed FPL for two decades, I've seen the company be kind and arrogant, competent and clueless, but never desperate. The more FPL sends out its platoons of public relations people, the worse the company looks. Forget the jet. Hire a makeover specialist.
    "Florida Popeil & Light?".

    LeMieux, a man in demand

    "LeMieux, who took office in September, earned nearly $2 million in an 18-month period. He was paid for work he did for companies wanting to end Florida's ban on oil drilling, large utilities seeking rate increases and vendors doing business with the state, according to a financial disclosure he filed earlier this month."

    Among those who paid LeMieux's law firm for work he did were Florida Power and Light, Florida Energy Associates, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, and Mosaic Fertilizer, as well as a company run by a former top fundraiser for the Republican Party of Florida whose dealings have come under fire.
    "But what LeMieux did to earn money from these companies is not clear. "
    His financial disclosure form states that he performed "legal services and counseling" for nearly all of the companies listed. ...

    LeMieux's financial disclosure form filed earlier this month shows that he earned $1.65 million from the Gunster law firm and an additional $150,000 from a company called MTC Strategies. The primary client for MTC Strategies was the Republican Party of Florida. ...

    Others who paid LeMieux for work include The Geo Group, a private prison vendor; Centene Management Company, which provides services in the state's Medicaid program; the Land Company of Osceola County, which is involved in a large Central Florida land development, and Trigeant Holdings, which is managed by Harry Sargeant III.

    Sargeant, the former finance chairman for the Republican Party of Florida, was linked to a Jordanian businessman who was indicted on charges of funneling illegal contributions to presidential candidates and Crist.
    "Major players in Florida legislation relied on LeMieux".

    "Vicious, ham-handed attack against Argenziano by AIF"

    The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "This week, Argenziano successfully demanded details of high FPL executive salaries and company planes -- which led to the company carving $53 million from its request for a $1.3 billion increase in the base rate."

    The exchange was embarrassing for the utility and illuminating for consumers, who probably didn't realize that FPL expected to base part of its rate increase on inflated salaries and perks. But in the bigger picture, the savings to consumers from this revelation won't be substantial -- and changing the faces on the commission won't accomplish much without significant improvements in state laws.

    And those will be harder to achieve. Regulated utilities pour millions into campaign coffers every election season, and have powerful allies -- as illustrated last week by a vicious, ham-handed attack against Argenziano by Associated Industries of Florida. The group bills itself as the "voice of Florida business." But it ignored the fact that Florida businesses would largely be hurt by a massive electric-rate increase, and sided with FPL in its request to raise bills across the state a total of $1.2 billion. Before AIF released the press statement blasting Argenziano, it sent a copy to FPL for editing, the Palm Beach Post reported.

    Powerful allies like Associated Industries can be a boon when the Legislature is in session. And provisions that benefit utilities can be hard to spot -- such as the law that allows companies to front-load costs of new nuclear plants onto consumers, which passed with little notice in 2006.
    "A lack of oversight".


    In Brevard, "Redrawing school boundaries might harm legacy of desegregation".

    PSC Sunshine

    "Bill aims to bring sunshine into PSC hearings".

    "That is how justice is supposed to work"?

    Scott Maxwell: "One waited five years in prison before he was exonerated."

    Another, 22. And a third, 27.

    According to your governor, attorney general and state attorney, that is how justice is supposed to work.

    There's no guarantee that Bennett — now 52 and confined to northwest Florida's Apalachee Correctional Institution — will be exonerated.

    And in fact, not a single advocate for justice has ever argued that anyone convicted with [the rogue dog handler's] help should be set free — only that their cases be independently reviewed.

    But for these three career politicians — Crist, McCollum and Wolfinger — that apparently is too much to ask.
    "Did dog handler fake it again?".

    Sea urchin comeback

    "Amid 300-pound groupers, curious barracudas and a rainbow of tropical fish attracted to a new artificial reef off Key West, a tiny creature is causing a big stir among conservationists: the long-spined sea urchin." "In the Keys, long-spinned sea urchin makes a comeback".

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