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 Monday, December 07, 2009

"Crist is changing again"

    Brendan Farrington: "A sure sign that an election is a year away: Gov. Charlie Crist is changing again."
    Choosing or changing positions based on what's politically popular is nothing new for Crist. Whether it's abortion laws, oil drilling or even the politicians he associates with, Crist can be a political chameleon. ...

    So far it has worked for Crist. He has won his last three statewide races - education commissioner, attorney general and governor. Next year, though, could be problematic. ...

    It doesn't help that his credibility has been hurt. ...

    "Charlie has given everybody multiple reasons to question everything that comes out of his mouth, whether it's true or whether he'll change his mind from one day to the next," said Brett Doster, a Republican strategist who worked for Crist's 2006 primary opponent.

    Doster also knows Crist has a history of political shifts.

    "He's lived his political career in the ambiguous zone," he said.

    For example, while campaigning for governor, a Roman Catholic priest asked Crist if he would sign the same bill passed in South Dakota attempting to ban abortion. Without hesitation, Crist said "Yes I would." Minutes after he left the event, he clarified his remarks to say only if there were exemptions for rape and incest victims. He later said he would rather change hearts, not laws.
    "Now that Rubio is gaining ground and depicting Crist as a moderate, Crist says he has consistently been conservative."
    "I don't change my stripes from day to day," Crist recently told a Republican crowd.

    But two years ago, when Crist's approval rating was high among Democrats and Republicans alike, he didn't sound so firmly conservative. He was asked what the word meant, and said, "I don't know. It doesn't really matter to me, if you want to know the truth."
    "Analysis: With election near, Gov. Crist changes".

    "Justices hear beach restoration suit"

    The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Florida municipalities spend millions of taxpayer dollars a year to restore beaches and protect coastal property that is so critical to the state's tourism economy. But a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court could throw sand into the gears of those efforts, if justices put the narrow interests of a few waterfront property owners ahead of the interests of the general public in Florida." "High Court hears beach restoration lawsuit".

    Unions at it again

    Zell Corp employees*, Josh Hafenbrack and Aaron Deslatte: "Lawmakers are considering providing a financial lifeline to South Florida's Tri-Rail and building SunRail, a new commuter train through Orlando. But labor groups have raised strong objections to the deal because the railroad jobs wouldn't be in union hands."

    "In union hands"? That sounds so icky, ... just like you'd expect from the virulently anti-union Orlando Sentinel** and the timid employees ("journalists"?) that work for it.

    Hafenbrack and Deslatte continue:

    Two senators to watch: Sens. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, and Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, rivals for attorney general in 2010. Neither can afford to lose labor support, a crucial constituency in low-turnout Democratic primaries. But both say they are open to voting for the rail package if the right deal comes along. ...

    In addition to Aronberg and Gelber, Sen. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, is a key Democrat who is running to replace Robert Wexler in the U.S. Congress -- with labor's backing. Senate Democratic Leader Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, and Sen. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens, also are running for Congress.

    "I think the union issue is the key," said Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale. "That union support or nonsupport is huge because everyone from South Florida is running for higher office."

    Even if the Senate adds pro-union language -- and wins over Democratic supporters -- that sets up another question: Will the House, which is more conservative and openly hostile to Big Labor, go along? On Friday, House Republican leaders shot down Democratic attempts to add pro-union language to the bill. A final vote -- without the union protections -- is scheduled for today.
    "Union issue, South Florida Democrats' ambitions in SunRail spotlight".

    What Hafenbrack and Deslatte are unable to understand, or at least convey, is that unions are simply doing what unions do - trying to protect employees' jobs, both now and in the future. Florida employees without contracts (union or otherwise), are mere "employees at will", and can, according to the Florida Supreme Court, actually be terminated for egregious behavior like exercising their "constitutionally protected rights." (DeMarco v. Publix Super Markets, Inc., 384 So.2d 1253 (Fla. 1980)).

    This archaic rule is grounded in a perspective of social and economic relations that many people mistakenly believe passed with the industrial revolution; on the contrary, it remains the policy of Florida that
    "Men must be left without interference to buy and sell where they please and to discharge or retain employees at will for good cause or for no cause, or even for bad cause, without thereby being guilty of an unlawful act per se. It is a right which an employee may exercise in the same way, to the same extent, for the same cause or want of cause, as the employer."

    - Payne v. Western & Atlantic R. Co.

    "Florida's at-will employment doctrine may be ‘cold-hearted, draconian and out-dated,’ but it is the law of Florida."

    - Zombori v. Digital Equipment Corp.
    (Citations omitted). Hence, when uninformed media company employees whine about unions, it bears remembering that these unions are merely resisting the "cold-hearted, draconian and out-dated" law of Florida, something for which they should be applauded.

    - - - - - - - - - -
    *When it comes to sensitive issues, like unions, media company employees often feel constrained to articulate the interests of their corporate owners - after all, the job market sucks these days, and one wouldn't want to say or do anything to anger the boss man, in this case Mr. Zell. (e.g., "Exclusive: Sam Zell Says 'Fuck You' To His Journalist" (the "journalist" had merely asked "where the paper's journalism was headed, and Zell said journalists needed to focus on what readers want, thus helping generate revenue to reinvest in the paper. The journalist then followed up, saying readers want 'puppy dogs' rather than real information. Zell took umbrage ...".) More from The New Yorker: "the mention of Hillary Clinton’s name prompted him to use a four-letter obscenity to describe her".

    **The Sentinel is unabashedly anti-union, so much so that at least some of their alleged "journalists" have actually volunteered to serve as scabs to help bust strikes (see "Send in the scabs", "Picking scabs, part two" and "Scab 30" (scroll down)). The Sentinel's perspective on unions is, to put it mildly, somewhat tainted.

    Nelson goes "viral"

    "Video blooper may tell why Florida senator has gone viral".

    LeMieux and Crist's "tired scare tactics"

    The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Arizona Sen. John McCain should know better. So should Florida Sen. George LeMieux and Gov. Charlie Crist. They are among the politicians using tired scare tactics to build opposition to the cuts to Medicare's growth in the health care reform proposals before Congress." "Medicare tall tales".

    Them greedy public employees

    Bill Cotterell: "When the state makes a deal with its employees, how long should promises be kept?"

    Dismal state revenue collections and the political impossibility of an election-year tax increase will make Florida legislators scrounge for every dollar they can find next spring. Among other things, they'll consider making all state employees pay for health insurance.

    This idea comes up from time to time, but it got legs last week when the St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald bureau reported that 27,479 employees have state-paid coverage. The next day, the News Service of Florida noted that Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander, R-Winter Haven, believes it's time to end that particular perk.

    The Times/Herald story added that legislative leaders (that is, Republicans) who oppose extending Medicaid benefits to more poor people are, themselves, eligible for taxpayer-paid insurance.
    "But what last week's news reports did not mention is that "
    about 16,900 of the employees who aren't paying premiums were forced from Career Service to the Selected Exempt Service in 2001 by then-Gov. Jeb Bush's "Service First" personnel reforms.

    That's right: Larding the freebies upon five times as many employees was just one more of those liberal giveaways dreamed up by that old big-government guy, John Ellis Bush.

    In return for paid-up premiums in SES, the formerly Career Service employees lost protection against arbitrary firing, demotion, reassignment, transfer or other personnel actions — in fact, they gave up all job security. They also lost overtime pay, potentially worth far more than they saved on insurance.
    To put this all in context, Cotterell reminds us - although the geniuses that populate Florida's media company editorial boards never seem to get it - that
    useless as it is to repeat, the state's Annual Workforce Report says the average personnel-systemwide salary ($38,313) is 3.78 percent below the average wage in Florida for all industries. That includes Career Service, SES and Senior Management Service.

    And there isn't any big, bloated state bureaucracy. Florida ranks last in its ratio (118 per 10,000) of employees to residents and last in per-resident cost ($36) of state personnel.
    "Paid insurance? That was then, this is now".

    Words mean things

    "The state's highest court, in its September 2008 ruling, said authorities needed to expressly convey the right to have an attorney present during questioning. The Tampa police's warning 'suggests to a reasonable person in the suspect's shoes that he or she can only consult with an attorney before questioning,' the opinion stated."

    "Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene"

    McCollum's chief of staff, Joe Jacquot, 39, will argue the state's case in Washington. He is asking the court to determine that the spirit of the warning is more important than the actual language.
    "Supreme Court to hear case on Tampa police's use of Miranda warning".

    Daily Rothstein

    "A decade before Scott Rothstein befriended Gov. Charlie Crist and others in high places, he had cozied up to local cops."

    That long-standing relationship was highlighted last week when federal authorities charged Rothstein with masterminding a $1.2 billion investment scheme -- including using some of that money to shower on police officers.

    Federal prosecutors say Rothstein and other co-conspirators used funds illegally obtained from the Ponzi scheme to hire local officers to provide security for his law firm and Fort Lauderdale waterfront home.

    Rothstein, 47, provided "gratuities to high-ranking members of police agencies in order to curry favor with such police personnel and to deflect law enforcement scrutiny of the activities of [the law firm] and defendant Rothstein,'' according to the charges filed against the now-disbarred lawyer.
    "Feds: Scott Rothstein showered officers with `gratuities'". Related: "'The kind of kid you'd bring home to your mother': The rise and fall of Scott Rothstein".

    "Rewind button"

    The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Florida Power & Light Co. President Armando Olivera wants his company to be part of improving the Public Service Commission's image." "FPL hits rewind button on request for rate increase".

    Gun control

    Andrew Marra: "Gun control: Massacre in Jupiter points out holes in system".

    "He was definitely nudged"

    "Jim Chitwood, the man state Rep. Ray Sansom replaced at Northwest Florida State College, insists he wasn’t pushed into retirement by former college President Bob Richburg. But he was definitely nudged." "Before Sansom's college hire, exec given 'phased departure'".

    A university town thing

    "Survey says two-thirds of Leon residents want health reform".

    Nobody's perfect

    "Congressman Alan Grayson has risen to national prominence by blasting Republicans and mocking their legislative ideas. But lately the outspoken Democrat from Orlando is turning his frustrations toward his own party and President Barack Obama." " Grayson finds fault with Obama".

    Entrepreneurs in action

    "Report: Medicare fraud runs rampant in Miami-Dade".


    The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "The state's transportation future will be shaped this week by one clear, difficult choice. If modern passenger rail service is to come to Florida any time soon, the Legislature must pass a new law in special session that sets up a statewide structure to oversee and help pay for regional and city-to-city trains." "Decision point on commuter rail".

    From the "values" crowd

    "Opening arguments are expected in a class-action lawsuit that accuses Florida of not living up to federal Medicaid standards."

    The lawsuit, being argued in Miami, claims 390,000 children didn't get a medical checkup in 2007, and more than 750,000 received no dental care.
    "Florida accused of violating Medicaid standards".

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