Since 2002, daily Florida political news and commentary


UPDATE: Every morning we review and individually digest Florida political news articles, editorials and punditry. Our sister site, FLA Politics was selected by Campaigns & Elections as one of only ten state blogs in the nation
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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, January 31, 2010

"The dam is already broken"

    "The death knell for democracy? Or a vital protection for First Amendment rights?"
    Those two views represent the extremes of the wide range of reactions to the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling on Jan. 21 that clears the way for corporations and unions to directly finance advertising that supports or opposes candidates for federal office.

    Yet many experts believe the impact might not be as tumultuous as critics fear -- as long as authorities enforce the ruling's demand to require disclosure of the funding sources for political ads.

    One reason it might not be a dam-breaker, some reasoned, is the dam is already broken.

    Opinions of the ruling are largely split across partisan lines, with Democrats complaining the ruling destroys a century of established law barring direct corporate involvement in politics and Republicans hailing it as a victory for free speech.
    "Court ruling may not change Fla. campaigns". The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "New law needed after Supreme Court ruling on campaign financing".

    Crist cuts and runs

    Mike Thomas: "Crist leaves fiscal mess for next governor".

    Crist's "airlift scandal"

    "With medical evacuation flights on hold and federal and state officials blaming each other, Gov. Charlie Crist insists the state's hospitals remain ready to welcome the injured." "Amid airlift scandal, Gov. Charlie Crist and hospitals insist they're ready to welcome Haitian patients". See also "Charges fly over grounded airlifts", "Evacuations from Haiti to US halt over cost" and "South Florida hospitals defend role on halt of Haiti airlift".

    Florida media misses their Jebbie

    Beth Reinhard writes that, "in recent months, as the Republican Party of Florida has grappled with a leadership vacuum, Bush's political profile has grown as fast as the national deficit."

    Reinhard breathlessly asks whether

    this the beginning of a Jeb juggernaut that would culminate in a 2012 presidential bid?
    Reinhard continues:
    Bush's comments about Crist's support for President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan got the most attention, but his call for Democrats and Republicans to work together was the biggest clue to his national ambitions.

    "I think that leaders on both sides of the aisle need to figure out where there is common ground and at least focus on that,'' he said. "It's one thing to give a good speech. The other thing is to invite people that don't agree exactly with your point of view to build consensus.''

    This from the governor who presided over some of Florida's most hyper-partisan battles of the last decade? Who helped declare his brother the winner of the 2000 presidential recount, threw out affirmative action with the "One Florida'' program, made the FCAT the end-all be-all of the public schools and insisted on getting in between brain-damaged Terri Schiavo and her husband?
    Reinhard closes with this:
    Though he hasn't given an endorsement, Bush has been an undeniable presence in the Crist-Rubio race. Consider: His well-placed compliments for Rubio and subtle digs at Crist. The involvement of his family's longtime fundraiser, Ann Herberger, in the Rubio campaign. The reception co-hosted by sons George P. and Jeb Jr. that raised $100,000 for Rubio.

    If the race goes down to the wire, or if Crist launches a full-scale attack against Rubio, some Republicans predict Bush will speak out.
    "Jeb Bush is back, and some think he's looking presidential".

    We here at FLA Politics also hope Jebbie will speak out.

    Perhaps, then, someone in the gaggle of media company employees comprising Florida's political media corps will have the courage to remind Floridians that "Jeb!" left Florida "first in the nation in mortgage fraud, second in foreclosures, last in high school graduation rates", as well as the "worst real estate meltdown since the Depression ... a water crisis, insurance crisis, environmental crisis and budget crisis to go with our housing crisis."

    And, "for every success Bush can point to, cheaper Florida Lottery overhead, better third party Medicaid collections, there has been an embarrassing misstep and sometimes corruption."

    Jebbie likewise had a hubris problem, and could not grasp basic constitutional principles - which resulted in what one pundit called "the doctrine of 'Jebian Supremacy'".

    In that regard, a former FDLE employee wrote that Jebbie "regularly inserted himself into ongoing investigations of political or particularly sensitive natures while [she] worked with FDLE by requesting continuous updates and tacitly pressuring the agency at every level"; it once famously got to the point where he ordered "Florida officials ... to seize Terri Schiavo ... from her hospice bed ... local police got in the way ... [and] the standoff could ultimately have led to a constitutional crisis and a confrontation between dueling lawmen."

    Bush left office under a cloud: The Washington Post wrote that, "Bush's back-to-back terms were marred by frequent ethics scandals, official bungling and the inability of the government he downsized to meet growing demands for state services, including education and aid for the infirm and the elderly." Even Forbes Magazine asked, "Where was Jeb?" All of this was consistent with Bush's history, as the St. Pete Times described it, "Jeb: Make The Money and Run".

    Time Magazine summarized it this way: "At times, basic competence has been an issue for Bush." "A former federal prosecutor told [Mother Jones] that, when he looked into Jeb's lucrative business dealings with a now-fugitive Cuban, he considered two possibilities -- Jeb was either crooked or stupid. At the time, he concluded Jeb was merely stupid." Related: "When Jeb Bush speaks, people cringe".

    Regarding Jebbie's national political aspirations, the Washington Post explained,
    "Under President Jeb, the nation still would have had large federal tax cuts, skewed heavily toward the rich, or the "risk takers" and "job creators," in Bush family parlance. In Florida, he reduced taxes by $12.2 billion over his eight years, with more than half of that going to the wealthiest 4.5 percent of the population. That saved the average risk taker [sic] more than $1,500 a year by the time Jeb left office. And much as President George W. Bush cites tax cuts as the explanation for any positive economic results, Gov. Jeb Bush says that his tax cuts created jobs in Florida and gave us the best economy in the country. (In reality, Jeb had the lowest job-creation rate of any Florida governor dating to 1971.)"
    Along these same lines,
    The bulk of the state's tax cuts have gone toward businesses and investors. Lawmakers joined a federal phase out of the estate tax in 2002, resulting in a net $2 billion plus tax cut thus far. And Bush has led the charge against the state's intangibles tax on investments. Since 1999, the tax (on individuals with at least $250,000 of investments) has been reduced four times with a total cumulative cut of nearly $4 billion.
    Much more here: "About "Jeb!""

    FlaDems "more pragmatic than partisan"

    Mary Ann Lindley: "When you're in the out-of-power party, how do you spend your time as a legislator? Do you plant your hands on your hips, scowl and just say 'no' for 60 days running? Do you repeat the party-line mantra, regardless of whether anybody's listening? In talking to our Tallahassee-area House members last week, I found them more pragmatic than partisan as they approach the March 2 opening day." "Out of power, but not out of ideas".

    "Buckle up, Florida political junkies"

    "Buckle up, Florida political junkies. 2010 could get wild. The upcoming campaign season will go beyond electing a U.S. senator, a governor, the state Cabinet, members of Congress, legislators and all sorts of local officeholders."

    Jim Saunders explains:

    Growth ... Brewing for years, the proposed Florida Hometown Democracy constitutional amendment likely will spur one of 2010's noisiest political fights. ...

    Property Taxes ... Voters passed a constitutional amendment two years ago that -- in the oft-quoted words of Gov. Charlie Crist -- was aimed at making property taxes "drop like a rock." This year, they could try again. ...

    Political Changes ... Once every 10 years, Florida lawmakers jockey to draw new political districts that will benefit their parties -- and, often, themselves. ...

    Class Size ... It is unclear what proposed amendments could get added during the legislative session that starts March 2. But Republican leaders will seek an amendment to try to ease class-size standard.
    Much more here: "Ballot full of hot-button issues".

    The Miami Herald editorial board: "To look at some of Florida's legislative and congressional districts, like this map of state Senate District 27, for instance, you might conclude that they were designed by a contortionist."
    There are dozens of such contortions statewide, leaving voters to wonder why their state representative or member of Congress lives hundreds of miles from them. These districts -- zigging and zagging across cities, leaping over vast uninhabited tracts to connect two distant communities -- are created every 10 years by whatever party controls the state Legislature.

    It's an equal opportunity abuse of voters' rights to fair representation practiced by both parties in an effort to cement their own re-elections.

    In November, voters will get the chance to change this assault on democracy by adopting Amendments 5 and 6 to the Florida Constitution. Amendment 5 establishes standards for how legislative districts may be redrawn; 6 does the same for Florida's congressional districts. New districts are drawn by the Legislature every 10 years after the U.S. Census.
    "End the gerrymandering for good".

    The Tampa Tribune editors: "Crist and the legislative leadership want to loosen the costly handcuffs of Florida's class-size law. The move, which will save the state more than $3 billion next year, is overdue." "Return common sense to class-size reduction".

    Laff riot

    Fun with Tebow Time:

    Go ahead and laugh if you want. They used to laugh, too, at the notion that another charismatic, conservative former college football player could become president. You might have heard of him.

    His name was Ronald Reagan.

    "If Tim Tebow wanted to be a political candidate, it's his for the taking," says Orlando attorney John Stemberger, who heads Florida Family Policy Council, a politically connected conservative religious organization. "He would be a political rock star. … He's handsome, he's humble and he has character and integrity. … This young man could be the next Ronald Reagan or Jack Kemp if he wanted to be."

    Stemberger's organization is the local affiliate of the national organization – Focus on the Family – that is airing Tebow's controversial right-to-life commercial. The Super Bowl ad transcends anything Tebow has ever done on the football field. It transforms him from football player to political figure and aligns him with Focus on the Family — the most politically powerful evangelical organization in this country.

    Think about it: What better "family values" candidate for Focus on the Family to align itself with in 2028 than Tebow — a charismatic and telegenic former football star; a compassionate missionary who travels to impoverished foreign lands to provide food and medical care to Third World children; a self-described virgin who is saving himself for marriage; an ardent pro-life supporter who was born because his sick mother shunned a doctor's recommendation to undergo an abortion.

    How in the name of James Carville are the liberals going to dig up even a speck of dirt on Tebow? This guy is more wholesome than a glass of buttermilk.
    "Now that Tim Tebow has gone political, could he become the next Ronald Reagan?".

    "Sink has been playing small ball"

    Aaron Deslatte: "It makes little sense these days for politicians to be creatively frugal when this is how the polls — i.e., the voters — respond."

    Look at Florida's race for governor. The Republican running, Attorney General Bill McCollum, has been seizing on big, national issues that the Governor's Office has little direct involvement in — primarily, the national health-care debate — and lambasting Democratic positions on them. Meanwhile, Democratic Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink has been playing small ball.
    "Bill McCollum tackles health-care reform, while Alex Sink manages office supplies".

    Lessons for Florida

    Jane Healy writes "Scott Brown's stunning victory in the Massachusetts U.S. Senate race has lessons for more than just that election. It has clear messages for races here", in Florida. "Lessons for Florida in Scott Brown's win".

    Crist "the Comeback Kid"?

    Tim Nickens thinks "Crist may yet be the Comeback Kid."

    Yes, a new opinion poll last week showed Crist trailing former state House Speaker Marco Rubio in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. Yes, Rubio made the cover of the New York Times Sunday Magazine. Yes, the Miami Republican is the darling of the windbag Washington conservatives because he spouts their empty antigovernment rhetoric.

    But last week marked the start of Crist's comeback.
    "The week Crist got back on track".


    "National Democrats are touting Chris Craft’s challenge of freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney of Tequesta as an 'emerging' race this year. But Craft has yet to emerge as a money-raising rival to the incumbent." "U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney widens money lead over Dem challenger Chris Craft".

    "Lest Tea forget"

    Frank Cerabino: "If you get a copy of Marco Rubio's book, 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future, you'll find this as part of Idea No. 48:"

    "An analysis presented to the 2003 Legislature demonstrated investments in highway, transit and rail over the next five years will generate 88,000 new permanent jobs over the next 25 years, and each dollar invested in those projects will generate $5.50 in economic benefits."

    Yes, Florida's former speaker of the House was big on long-range transportation projects built with government assistance. So much so, he put it in bold type:

    "Government should collaborate with the private sector to fund, build and maintain needed transportation improvements," he wrote.

    So you might imagine that Rubio would have praised President Obama's announcement Thursday to use $1.25 billion in federal stimulus dollars to collaborate with the private sector to build a high-speed rail system from Orlando to Tampa.
    "Lest Tea forget: Rubio backed big government".

    "New attacks on public education"

    The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "As he campaigns for the Senate, Gov. Crist is boasting that, according to one education yardstick, Florida ranks eighth. But like most education yardsticks, this one might have been designed by Salvador Dali."

    The recent Education Week report card assigned states letter grades in a slew of areas. All the grades added up to an overall B-minus for Florida. This state's only A in a major category this year was in "standards, assessments and accountability." On standards, Florida scored a perfect 100 percent.

    But hold the celebration. On college readiness, part of the bigger "transitions and alignment" grade issued in 2009 and not updated this year, Florida scored 50 percent. That's an F. How can a state get an A on standards and an F on college readiness, which is, after all, a fairly important goal — and standard — of public education? Surreal.

    We've seen this kind of reality gap before. In the decade since Jeb Bush turned the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test into our homegrown stretchy yardstick, scores in lower grades have improved dramatically. But high-school students — who represent the end product — still bomb out. In the most recent results, 37 percent of 10th-graders were reading on grade level. That's the same percentage as in 2001.

    Gov. Crist, like Gov. Bush before him, acts as if simply having a high-stakes standardized test means that Florida has a successful system of accountability. The Education Week report card repeats that mistake. Florida got a 100 percent in standards primarily because Florida has standards. That's like every child getting an A just for bringing a science project to school.
    "The priority for state legislators should be creating a rational system to pay for education. Instead, they could be gearing up for new attacks on public education"
    .This month, for example, former Gov. Bush was in Tallahassee touting parts of an education plan by Florida's Council of 100, a group of CEOs from throughout the state. ...

    But as Mr. Bush's presence foretells, the council's plan also opens the way for needlessly divisive proposals. It calls for more "opportunity scholarships," a euphemism for vouchers, so legislators could use it as an excuse to back a constitutional amendment to allow vouchers for private schools — without requiring equal accountability with public schools. And it calls for merit-based teacher pay, which would be fine if the Legislature didn't use it to base teacher hiring, retention and pay on the current, flawed FCAT system.

    In that way, the council's plan is much like the Obama administration's Race to the Top. Mr. Bush is so keen on continuing to misuse the FCAT to punish teachers that he even endorsed Race to the Top, which could bring $700 million in stimulus money to Florida. "It's the only place you'll hear me saying they've got it right," the former governor said, "but they have got it right."

    No, they haven't.
    Read it all here: "Florida's real report card: F".

    "Tough running for re-election without an opponent"

    Michael Mayo: "It's got to be tough running for re-election without an opponent. All those arduous strategy sessions must really work up the old appetite. Just ask Broward Mayor Ken Keechl. Keechl rang up 88 restaurant meals on his campaign's dime last year, according to finance reports he filed with the local elections office. Total tab: $7,451." "No opponent on menu, but Ken Keechl feasts on campaign cash".

    To replace Wexler

    "The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the proposed health care overhaul and federal spending are dominating the debate between the two Democrats and three Republicans running in Tuesday's primaries for the congressional seat of former U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, who resigned in January to lead a Middle East think tank. State Sen. Ted Deutch, who has Wexler's endorsement, and former Broward County Commissioner Ben Graber, also a former state House member, are seeking the Democratic nomination. The Republican candidates are financial planner Joe Budd; Ed Lynch, a contractor; and retired police officer Curt Price, who owns a business that sells safes." "2 Dems, 3 GOP seek Wexler's congressional seat". See also "Ted Deutch has big financial lead in contest to succeed Robert Wexler".

    Hastings pushes DADT

    "Hastings presses White House to keep word on allowing gays to serve openly in military".

    "Florida's economic picture is especially grim"

    The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "Times are tough across the nation for state governments. Economists say states could be in the hole for at least $80 billion -- or as much as $200 billion."

    But Florida's economic picture is especially grim, due to past fiscal irresponsibility and looming budget burdens that are outside lawmakers' control. As in other states, Florida lawmakers are looking forward with trepidation at the "cliff" -- the Dec. 31 expiration of the federal stimulus money that is helping defray the costs of Medicaid.
    "Keeping Florida healthy".

    Homeless courts

    The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "The program, the first in Florida, will save taxpayers money by keeping the homeless out of jail, reducing arrest warrants and duplicative hearings." "Courts for homeless are a good idea".

    The Punisher

    "Crist sets punishing pace: disciplining three dozen public officials in 3 years".

    "A state that's more Fantasyland than reality TV"

    The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "As the 2010 Legislative session approaches, myriad ideas for beating back the recession, grappling with a budget shortfall that could approach $3 billion, finding the "happy" of voters in an election year — and doing all this without raising taxes, as such — creates a scenario that could exist only in a state that's more Fantasyland than reality TV."

    There actually are ways to make Gov. Charlie Crist look not too much the cockeyed optimist in his budget plan, which calls for another $535 million for public schools, an extra $100 million for higher education, some $50 million for the environment, again without raising taxes, in fact giving some tax relief, and this new spending within the confines of a $69.2 billion budget that's in the hole at the sound of the first bell.

    The truth is, the search for revenue, by any name, is a bipartisan issue. It just depends on what you want to spend it on, and where you want to get it.
    "Coin of this realm".

    Young redux?

    Darryl Paulson, professor emeritus of government at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, makes a bold prediction: "Reversing course: Why Rep. Bill Young will run again". See also "C.W. Bill Young shows no signs of retiring, or abandoning earmarks".

    Fair question

    "The $4.4 billion question: Will Central Floridians take the train?".

    "From the era of the Freedom Riders to the age of the Tea Partiers"

    The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "With a pen stroke, a federal judge can whisk Orange County Public Schools from the era of the Freedom Riders to the age of the Tea Partiers." "Keep aiming for parity".

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