"At the moment, Gov. Charlie Crist needs another headache like he needs a hole in the head. But he has one — and his name is Jim Greer." "Gov. Charlie Crist stands by embattled Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer".
"An inexcusable shame"
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board:
[A] recent analysis by a voting rights group serves as a sharp reminder that Florida still doesn't live up to that promise. Recent changes in voter registration laws, approved under the guise of preventing fraud, left thousands of would-be voters disenfranchised in the 2008 presidential election. That is an inexcusable shame, and one that Florida lawmakers need to address before the 2010 midterm elections."Florida rules leave too many voteless".
Jim Saunders: "Every 10 years, Florida lawmakers play a political chess game."
Using databases filled with population and election information, top lawmakers strategically draw new legislative and congressional districts that can help determine which politicians will be in office for years to come."District process may be changed". The Sun-Sentinel editors: "Proposed amendments take aim at redistricting reform".
But when voters go to the polls in November 2010, they could overhaul the redistricting process that critics have long derided as protecting incumbents and the party in control in Tallahassee.
A group known as FairDistrictsFlorida.org expects to have enough petition signatures to propose two constitutional amendments that would place new restrictions on redistricting -- including a ban on drawing districts "to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party."
Crist is "lost"
"'Lost' Charlie Crist struggles for answers, traction". Meantime, "Poll says Rubio's numbers are climbing, while Crist's slip".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Even if online sales hit record levels between Cyber Monday and last week's beat-the-shipping-deadline push, Florida won't benefit the way the state would from a mega Black Friday." "Stop 'legal' tax cheating".
More than 1 million Floridians out of work, jobless rate still rising" and "Florida unemployment hits 11.5 percent". More: "Jobs outlook not expected to improve until second quarter". Related: "Regulators shutter Florida bank, 6 others" and "GED seekers surge as recession persists".
Dragging their knuckles
Aaron Deslatte: "This is not a good time to go green in Florida politics."
If Gov. Charlie Crist was too nervous to hold a climate change conference this year, what were the odds that Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum would try to expand the GOP base and support environmental issues like "cap-and-trade?""Aaron Deslatte: Pols, voters abandon go-green positions".
Slim to none, thank you.
"Records link Rubio to many spending items".
The The Orlando Sentinel goes after Grayson yet again: "Web-site parody spurs Grayson to seek jail for foe".
11 innocent Florida citizens
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "Last year, the Florida Legislature passed a law that automatically grants former inmates who have been found innocent $50,000 for each year they were wrongfully incarcerated, so long as they were never convicted of a prior felony offense. It's the state's automatic apology, of sorts, for when the judicial system has gravely erred."
In recent years, at least 11 innocent Florida citizens have been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned. Nationwide, some 248 inmates have been exonerated by DNA evidence that showed their innocence."Wrongful ways".
Last week in Bartow, James Bain joined the list of the newly liberated, wrongfully punished, and he appears to be entitled to $1.75 million from the state of Florida as a result.
So much? Yes. He was released after 35 years for a crime it's now proven through DNA testing that he didn't commit. Such testing didn't exist in 1974, but his conviction was based primarily on the eyewitness identification of a 9-year-old Polk County boy. Today, it's known that witness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions. According to the Innocence Project of Florida Inc., it has contributed to almost 80 percent of those 248 overturned by DNA testing.
Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Peggy Quince was formally asked this month to set into motion a system that would identify and understand in an orderly and ongoing way what goes wrong with the criminal justice process in such cases, what patterns keep repeating, what flaws in the system could and must be remedied.
Scott Maxwell: "Florida's pattern of callous disregard for life — and make no mistake that is what we are talking about; the sanctity of life — is something our collective conscience should be unable to bear."
Fortunately, a growing number of people are giving voice to that concern — even while many of the politicians who could actually do something about it sit slack-jawed on the sidelines."More innocent people likely in prisons, but too many officials content to do nothing".
A group of widely respected attorneys and jurists — including former Florida Supreme Court justices and presidents of the American Bar Association — is pushing for creation of an innocence commission.
Their goal is to study the multiple cases of imprisoned innocence, discover what went wrong in the past — and figure out how to prevent it in the future.
"Largest utility rate cases in Florida history"
"Newcomers appointed to the state utility board will have the power to make a historic decision and will face the pressure that comes with it."
In January, they will sit in judgment of two of the largest utility rate cases in Florida history ... ."PSC's newcomers already facing high-stakes decisions". Related: "FPL plays hardball in campaign for rate hike".
From the "values" crowd
THe The Tampa Tribune editors point out that, while "it's the holiday season, but it's not a cheery time for Floridians with disabilities and their families. The state is in the process of reviewing individual 'cost plans' - a process that likely will result in painful service reductions for many of Florida's most vulnerable citizens." "People with disabilities unfair targets of cuts".
Rothstein probe widens
"Federal investigators are scrutinizing the records of Scott Rothstein's former employees -- who gave about $2.2 million to political candidates -- for potential campaign finance and other violations."
The largest chunk of contributions, about $1.2 million, came from Rothstein and his wife, Kimberly, who held fundraisers for McCain, Crist and other politicians at their waterfront home."Partner Stuart Rosenfeldt, who owned the law firm with Rothstein, and wife, Susanne, donated about $306,000 -- to McCain, Crist, Florida Senate President Jeff Atwater and others. Rosenfeldt also contributed $150,000 to committees supporting both major candidates in last year's Broward Sheriff's race."
The third named partner, Russell Adler, and wife, Katie, gave about $185,000 to state and federal politicians. Among them: former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for his presidential bid and later McCain, when he became the Republican nominee for the White House."Feds pursuing more lawyers, campaign violation links in Rothstein Ponzi case".
One employee who was close to Rothstein, chief operating officer Debra Villegas, donated about $46,000 to the campaigns of McCain, Giuliani, Crist and GOP committees in Florida. Last year, Rothstein bought a $400,000 house for Villegas in Weston. ...
At Rothstein's old firm, political fundraising was commonplace because the managing partner sought to ingratiate himself with Crist and other GOP heavyweights.
Crist sees the (Rothstein) light
"With polls showing his U.S. Senate rival on his heels, Gov. Charlie Crist reversed course Friday and said he would return all campaign donations from employees of the law firm formerly headed by alleged con man Scott Rothstein. ... Crist's change of heart comes more than two weeks after Rothstein was charged with multiple counts of racketeering. Federal officials said the law firm had been paying employees with tainted money and that some lawyers had been illegally reimbursed for making campaign donations."
But until now, Crist was unwilling to return money traced to the firm."Gov. Charlie Crist: I will return Rothstein donations".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Officials must find a way to fund trains long term". "Ensure SunRail's future". Related: "Lessons for SunRail come from Charlotte, where train is a success". More: "Jane Healy: Will politicians make the most of SunRail?"
Mike Thomas: "H1N1-vaccine hysterics need dose of reality".
The Daytona Beach News Journal editors:
State Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Destin, and Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, are filing legislation that would clarify when and how Florida's Sunshine Law applies to economic- development ventures involving local governments. Ideally, such a bill wouldn't be necessary. When tax dollars are involved, transparency should prevail, whatever the venture. But one of the more than 1,000 exceptions to the Sunshine Law is a vague provision allowing governments to negotiate secretly with private business when economic development is the goal. Secret negotiations can go on for two years even when they involve tax dollars, which local governments use as incentives to lure companies or keep them in town."Absent sunshine". Related: "Volusia's CEO club" ("Volusia County residents may forgivably get the impression that their region is generating more economic development agencies than jobs.")
The aim of the exception is defensible. The vagueness isn't, because the exemption has turned into a virtual exclusion of public input until deals are done.
Please, Mr. Obama
John C. Hall, executive director of the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy: "Federal stimulus money has helped keep Florida afloat in 2009 during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. But more trouble looms on the horizon when federal funding stops — unless Congress acts to provide more aid." "John C. Hall: Extending stimulus is vital to state's economy".
Myriam Marquez takes a shot at being witty: "Many political kiddies have been naughty". Related: "Key witnesses against Spence-Jones are neighbors" and "Crist would suspend Spence-Jones again if she wins special election".
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board:
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Dec. 10 released its draft national policy to promote -- but not mandate -- the use of catch shares in managing depleted fish stocks. It is a bold move that suggests a promising alternative to a contemplated but highly unpopular long-term ban on red-snapper and grouper fishing in waters off Volusia and Flagler counties. (A temporary ban along the South Atlantic coast from the Carolinas to South Florida went into effect this month.)"Fishing by catch share".
"Two new polls show the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate is likely to be a political death struggle between Crist and Rubio. In poll for the Associated Industries of Florida lobbying group, Zogby International showed Crist leading Rubio by 45 percent to 36 percent among likely Republican primary voters -- with a margin of error of about 6 percent." "A hot primary".
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "The Florida Legislature needs to heed the call of the state Supreme Court and correct an alarming double standard in criminal law that treats people differently based on where they live."
The state high court on Thursday upheld the conviction of a Hillsborough County teenager who ran from two sheriff's deputies in a high-crime area near the University of South Florida. He was convicted of resisting an officer without violence. In a better neighborhood, the teen's actions would not have constituted a crime, because police wouldn't have had enough reasonable suspicion to stop him."A troubling legal double standard".
South Florida condo market
"Encouraging signs after weak year of condo sales".