Grayson misses easy opponent, but wingnut in the wings
"After flirting with the idea for months, Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty removed his name from the list of prospective candidates who might run against Rep. Alan Grayson in 2010."
Many Republicans had looked at Crotty as one of their best hopes of winning back the U.S. House seat that Grayson, a millionaire lawyer and firebrand Democrat, took from the GOP column last year. Grayson beat four-term Republican Ric Keller and has gone on to attract national attention with his pointed criticisms of Republicans and their health-care policies."Crotty announces he's not running for Congress".
With Crotty's exit, Republicans are waiting to see what [home schooler/Schiavo fanatic] former state Sen. Dan Webster* will do. The Winter Garden Republican also has been indecisive about a congressional run, but in a brief e-mail to the Orlando Sentinel on Monday, he said he expected to make his intentions known this week.
One observer with close ties to Crotty said he thought Crotty dropped out for personal reasons and simply favors Webster to run.
"I know Dan is close [to making a decision]," Orange County GOP Chairman Lew Oliver said. "But I don't know which way he'll go."
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*"State Sen. Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden, was named Senate Majority Leader in May 2006. He is an air conditioner contractor who was born April 27, 1949, in Charleston, West Virginia."
He received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Georgia Tech in 1971. Webster's political career officially began in 1980 when he was elected as a Republican to the then-Democrat controlled Florida House of Representatives. He served 18 years in the House, two of which as minority leader prior to the GOP takeover in 1996. The change of party control made Webster the first GOP House Speaker in Florida since Reconstruction."Daniel Webster"
A conservative Southern Baptist, Webster and his wife, Sandy Jordan of Orlando, home-schooled their six children, guided by the Scripture-based teachings of the ["cult-like"] Institute in Basic Life Principles, a fact that prompted some criticism that Webster's religious views were influencing the public policies of the Legislature. In 1998, he won election to the Florida Senate, where he would become the chief sponsor of legislative attempts to prolong the life of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Pinellas County woman who died in 2005 when her feeding tube was removed folowing a protracted legal and political fight in the Legislature, Congress and the Florida Supreme Court.
"Alex Sink is on track to be the Democrats' best-funded gubernatorial candidate in years, with the chief financial officer reporting Monday that she raised $1.6 million over the past three months." "Alex Sink raises $1.6 million for gubernatorial campaign in third quarter" ("main Republican candidate for governor, Attorney General Bill McCollum, has not reported his latest fundraising tally, and his campaign did not respond to requests for comment Monday.")
Sansom gets a pass
"The case against former House Speaker Ray Sansom suffered a major blow Monday when a judge dismissed an official misconduct charge related to a $6 million project that a grand jury said was to be an airplane hangar for one of Sansom's political allies."
Lewis also swept aside felony official misconduct charges against Sansom's co-defendants: developer and big-time GOP donor Jay Odom and former Northwest Florida State College president Bob Richburg. A perjury charge against Richburg was dismissed, though part of one against Sansom was allowed to stand. "The long-awaited order throws Meggs' case into considerable doubt and was a big victory for Rep. Sansom, R-Destin, and his co-defendants."
Lewis let stand part of a perjury charge against Sansom -- whether he lied by saying the college requested millions in additional funding for a different project in 2008. But Meggs conceded that aspect was one of the weaker components of the case."Judge drops key charges against former House Speaker Ray Sansom". See also "Charges against Sansom, two others dismissed".
Even if Sansom, 47, prevails in state court, he could have other legal issues to confront. The FBI and IRS have been investigating in some capacity, though officials will not say to what extent.
It seems the decision was based on a technical, separation of powers issue: "A circuit judge calls official misconduct charges against former House Speaker Ray Sansom, left, developer Jay Odom and former college president Bob Richburg unconstitutional." "Official misconduct charges dismissed". The The Saint Petersburg Times has a link to a .pdf of the judge's ruling.
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board is on fire about this: "If Sansom gets away with using public education dollars to build an airport hangar for his friend, then anything goes in the Florida Legislature."
In granting their motions to dismiss the main official misconduct charges, the judge took a narrow view and concluded the law is unconstitutional as it applied to this case. Lewis wrote that legislation is not falsified merely because a single lawmaker misrepresents the act's purpose. In many cases, that would be a reasonable conclusion. After all, lawmakers often are less than truthful to the public and their colleagues about the potential impact of a particular piece of legislation."Sansom ruling not the last word". Background: "The rise and fall of Ray Sansom".
But the Sansom scandal is different. It involves spending public education dollars to benefit a private business and lying about it. Under the judge's reasoning, legislators are free to falsely describe the use of tax money in the budget for one public purpose and then steer the money to their politically powerful friends. What lawmakers call another joint use emergency facility could be a private car dealership. What they label a generic public clinic could be a private doctor's office. The possibilities for the misuse of taxpayer money would be limited only by the imaginations of legislators and their pals, and what little public trust in government there is now would evaporate.
"It is also natural to want to punish those involved," the judge wrote. "But not every wrongful conduct is a crime. Sometimes the remedy for such conduct must be political rather than judicial. This is one of those situations.''
No, it isn't. Sansom, Richburg and Odom conspired to misuse public education construction money for private benefit, and that is a crime against all Floridians. If there is not a state law that fits this abuse of the public trust, there should be.
"A mysterious ethics complaint has been filed against Florida Public Service Commissioner Nancy Argenziano, who said today that it's filled with errors. Such citizen complaints usually are confidential until the state Ethics Commission completes an initial investigation, but copies were delivered to news organizations in Tallahassee." "Argenziano target of mysterious ethics complaint".
"Collecting campaign checks"
"State lawmakers are back at the Capitol for the first time in months, and some are using the opportunity to engage in a favorite pastime: collecting campaign checks from lobbyists and their clients." "Florida legislators' fundraising back in session". See also "For Florida legislators, no visit to Tallahassee is too short to ask for checks".
A matter of priorities
On one hand we have "Felons on hold", but on the other we have this: "State seeks to speed up weapon permits".
"Group aims for neutral forum on drilling". See also "Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida assessing offshore drilling".
Jim Smith betrays another friend
"Ann Bowden: Bobby betrayed as pressure builds at FSU".
"Public Service Commissioner Katrina McMurrian resigned from the embattled state utility regulation board Monday, three months before her term expires, after Gov. Charlie Crist failed to reappoint her last week. In her resignation letter to Crist, McMurrian cited the governor's request that the PSC postpone decisions on increasing base rates for Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy until his two new commissioners begin their jobs in January." "Lame-duck member of Public Service Commission quits post". As a result, "Crist to appoint 3 month stand-in to finish utility regulator’s term".
Meantime, the The Palm Beach Post editorial board points out that "the Public Service Commission is set to decide whether Florida Power & Light Co. can build a 300-mile natural gas pipeline from Northeast Florida to Martin County. There is no reason to delay that decision." "PSC: ... but rule on FPL pipeline".
"As the health-care reform debate takes shape in Congress, advocates worry that many Hispanics -- who have the highest rate of uninsured of all ethnic and racial groups -- could still be left without needed medical care." "Hispanics could face barriers under health-care reform".
Even the Trib gets it
"[T]hree years ago the Florida Death Penalty Assessment Team made recommendations that should not have been ignored, and death penalty experts, both pro- and con-, have renewed calls for change. They met last month in Tallahassee to discuss the recommendations and develop strategies to see them put in place."
It's a good time to press lawmakers. Capital punishment is not cheap. The Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment, says it costs Florida $51 million more to house death-row inmates than murderers sentenced to life without parole. With the state financially strapped, the cost of death row should be part of the discussion."Death penalty reforms needed".
Lawmakers should also consider revising the law to require jurors' death sentence recommendations to be unanimous. Granted, such a change would have benefitted someone like Couey, who had two jurors refuse to recommend the death penalty. But today Florida alone allows jurors to make a recommendation based on a majority vote.
The assessment team also found confusion among jurors in capital cases. Almost a third believed they were required to sentence someone to death if that person's conduct was "heinous, vile or depraved." And a quarter believed a death sentence was mandatory if they considered the defendant to be a future danger to society. Clearly jury instructions need to be clarified and delivered in plain-spoken language.
The assessment team uncovered racial and social disparities among death-row inmates. A fair and accurate system must root out and eliminate bias.
And although Florida demands stringent qualifications for trial lawyers in capital cases, the state caps attorney fees at $3,500 for postconviction appeals, discouraging all but the most inexperienced attorneys. Lawmakers should set a more realistic fee schedule.
Finally, it's important to note that while Florida has executed 68 people since 1976, it has exonerated 23 inmates on death row – more than any other state. This statistic certainly suggests our system isn't perfect.
Will investors pay for it?
"State regulators are set to decide Tuesday if FPL should ask customers to shoulder the cost of a $1.6 billion natural gas pipeline or seek investors to pay for it." "PSC to decide: Who'll pay for FPL's $1.6B pipeline?".
Alleged journalists get pissy.
"As winner of the Republican primary, former House Speaker John Thrasher's name will appear on the ballot, but the names of the write-in candidates will not appear. If a voter wants to vote for someone other than Thrasher, the correct name of one of the write-in candidates must be written in by the voter. Officials estimate the election will cost about $700,000." "Former House speaker facing write-in candidates".