Rubio goes over the edge
The grubbing for RPOF base voters continues apace: "Senate candidate Marco Rubio said Friday that he doesn't accept the scientific evidence for global warming - a stance Rubio has hinted at before, but which the campaign of Gov. Charlie Crist said is a switch for Rubio."
In an interview with the Tribune on that subject Friday, Rubio called Crist "a believer in man-made global warming.""Rubio questions climate change".
"I don't think there's the scientific evidence to justify it," Rubio said.
Asked whether he accepts the scientific evidence that the global climate is undergoing change, he responded, "The climate is always changing. The climate is never static. The question is whether it's caused by man-made activity and whether it justifies economically destructive government regulation."
Rubio hasn't previously denied global warming outright in published statements on the issue.
Enough to make a RPOFer cry
"Scott Rothstein auction: Next up, the exotic cars and yachts".
"An elephant of an entirely different color"
The Tampa Tribune editors: "Folks who donated to the state Republican Party have reason to wonder how much of their money was used to help defeat Democrats and how much was squandered on personal luxuries for the leadership cabal and favorite friends."
The editors point out that Florida’s Chief Law Enforcement Officer would like to sweep the latest RPOFer scandal under the rug:
Whether to release credit card receipts for everyone who jumped on the gravy train conducted by outgoing party director Jim Greer has divided party leaders. Is a clean sweep worth the probable embarrassment?
Attorney General Bill McCollum appears to think not. The candidate for the Republican nomination for governor says the party's internal financial business is private and should not be shared with a critical press and curious public.
The editors write that,
it looks like something might have been going on beyond lax accountability. That's why we believe all party money spent by all elected leaders should be public record."Keep tabs on party cash".
No one should be ashamed to admit buying a plane ticket at the party's expense to attend a state party function or even charging a cup of coffee to the party while waiting for the flight. That's reasonable.
It would be much harder to explain a weekly massage, regular flowers for your wife or a new TV for your den.
Such expenses suggest payment, probably reportable on your income tax return, for something other than legitimate party business.
Reining in excessive spending by Greer and other party employees is a job for party leaders and one that Gov. Charlie Crist has neglected.
Voters may be appalled by the extravagances, but at least the party spends voluntary donations, not state revenue. Taxpayers needn't lose sleep over the expenses.
But how donations are spent by sitting lawmakers, and why they were given the money, is an elephant of an entirely different color.
Running government like a business
"Florida's state government workforce now includes about 5,500 positions that have been vacant for at least a month – jobs that Floridians pay to keep open even as legislators hit them with billions in fee and tax increases." "Florida taxpayers pay for vacant state government jobs".
From the "values" crowd
"The culprit: State budget cuts rippling through all of Florida government as the 2010 legislative session looms, with revenue shortfalls projected as high as $3 billion." "Child-care center a casualty of budget cuts".
Welcome back, Donna Arduin .
"A hypercautious candidate without a potent message"
Adam C Smith: "Veteran political pros and Democratic party activists across Florida increasingly fret that the woman once viewed as a sure winner for governor is proving to be a hypercautious candidate without a potent message or viable political operation."
Alex Sink is the first Democratic gubernatorial candidate in two decades to raise more money than the leading Republican, and that matters enormously in a state as vast as Florida. But money and a lackluster Republican opponent are about the only things her campaign has going for it at the start of an election year shaping up to be tough for Democrats everywhere."Alex Sink fans want a message".
"There's certainly time to turn it around and get it on the right path," said Democratic consultant Jeff Garcia of Miami, "but the campaign appears to be behind the eight ball and a little bit slow in developing.''
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Cruz for state House District 58". The Tampa Tribune editorial board agrees: "For House District 58, Janet Cruz".
For Crist, "three possible political scenarios"
Steve Bousquet asks: "Is it the scary poll numbers? The chorus of critics in the Republican base? The bad-mouthing by columnists and pundits?"
Whatever it is, a subtle but unmistakable shift is evident in the way Gov. Charlie Crist is acting."As Crist moves forward, consider three possible political scenarios:"
Now trailing Marco Rubio in polls for the U.S. Senate Republican primary, the governor seems more focused on his job.
• Crist doesn't know it yet, but the ball game is over. As he sinks in the polls, it's becoming clearer he can't possibly beat Rubio. So he might as well focus on being governor and accept that his political career, for now, is over."Welcome back to the job, Gov. Crist".
• Rubio is peaking way, way too early. It will eventually dawn on people that he has positioned himself too far to the right to win the November general election.
• The race is still wide open. Republicans may be more likely to "come home" to Crist if he can show them he's serious about moving the state forward.
CD 21 and CD 25 remain "solid Republican"
From The Cook Political Report: "Ever since GOP Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL-21) had been under consideration for a Senate appointment last year, rumors swirled that his brother, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25), would run for his seat."
[T]he fact that Lincoln Diaz-Balart's heavily Cuban-American district is slightly safer GOP turf doesn't mean Democrats can make a strong play for Mario Diaz-Balart's district, which stretches from Miami's faster-growing Cuban-American outskirts to more diverse territory around Naples. Both districts voted narrowly for GOP presidential nominee John McCain, and Democrats' blockbuster play for the Diaz-Balarts' seats in 2008 proved a bust. The Diaz-Balarts have picked the best year possible to try this handoff, and look for GOP state Rep. David Rivera to take the inside track for Mario Diaz-Balart's seat. Even if well-connected Democrat Joe Garcia, who took 47 percent against Mario Diaz-Balart in 2008, were to run again, he would have to raise another $2 million to have an outside chance of overcoming the GOP tide in a very expensive media market. For now, both seats remain in the Solid Republican column."FL-21 And FL-25: Diaz-Balart Musical Chairs Not a Major GOP Worry" (subscription required).
"Florida taxpayers punished by high incarceration rate"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "Florida's crime rate dropped by 7.9 percent during the first half of 2009 -- and the declines were across the board, with lower rates of felonies and violations of probation."
But you'd never know that by looking at Florida's prison population, which passed the 100,000 mark last year and is projected to hit 115,000 by June 2015. The state's prison system is near capacity, and new facilities will be needed.The bottom line:
The primary reason for swelling prison populations (and costs) is a brace of policies adopted during the past 12 years by lawmakers seeking to look tough on crime. ...
Those statistics carry a high price tag. Gov. Charlie Crist is recommending a $2.5 billion corrections budget -- $20 million more than last year, and $127 million less than the Department of Corrections says it needs to operate the state's prison and probation systems. ...
In 2008, the Legislature ordered the formation of a commission to investigate the state's sentencing guidelines and policies. But lawmakers didn't fund it, and the commission never met.
"The cost of getting tough".
For too long, lawmakers have relied on tough-on-crime gimmicks and slogans instead of facing the root causes of crime, and especially recidivism.
Impact fee fuss
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Nine counties and three groups representing local governments filed a court challenge this week of a 2009 law that tipped legal leverage toward developers who fight paying impact fees. Good for the plaintiffs."
The law was one of several the Legislature adopted last year under the guise of easing growth management rules to jump-start the economy. Many of the changes -- deservedly -- have ended up in court."Impact Law Unfair".
In 2009, lawmakers ignored the escalating foreclosure crisis, slowed construction and glut of vacant housing stock and claimed easing growth restrictions would spur development. A year later our economy is no better, and unemployed construction workers are filing jobless claims by the thousands.
Now cities are saddled with the onerous new growth rules. In the case of impact fees, levied on new growth to pay for increased demands on services like roads and sewer systems, state law has historically put the burden on developers to prove that local governments miscalculated the price of new infrastructure or applied fees unfairly.
The new law shifted the burden of proof to local governments. It also raised the standard of proof and added limitations on how courts can review a challenged fee.
This will increase impact fee challenges and, thus, cities' litigation costs. It's essentially an unfunded mandate.
RPOFers on a rampage
"Backers of two constitutional changes that would make it harder for Florida lawmakers to gerrymander their political boundaries got a long-anticipated tongue-lashing Thursday from a testy legislative panel charged with overseeing next year's redistricting process."
FairDistrictsFlorida.org collected enough signatures to place Amendments 5 and 6 on the November general election ballot. They would require lawmakers to draw legislative and congressional districts to be more compact, mindful of existing city and county boundaries and not favoring or disfavoring political parties and incumbents. Currently, the maps can look like modern art masterpieces."But Republican legislators have been highly skeptical of the petition drive, which was largely financed by Democratic-leaning teacher and service worker unions and big plaintiff law firms."
The group's chair, Miami lawyer Ellen Freidin, told a joint House-Senate panel Thursday that dozens of other states had rules similar to what the amendments would require for the once-a-decade redistricting process, "and they all manage to get their maps drawn."But the right-wing geniuses were out in force:
Senate President-designate Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, and House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon, R- Winter Park [have] held several hearings keying on whether the amendments would prevent lawmakers from following federal mandates to draw political boundaries that ensure minorities are elected to the Legislature and Congress."Lawmakers berate backer of Fair Districts redistricting amendments".
They have also roundly criticized the Fair Districts group for refusing to defend its work.
On Thursday, a succession of GOP lawmakers grilled Freidin on how the amendments would impact the redistricting process, which starts in earnest later this year when new census figures are published.
Rep. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, questioned whether the amendment "enshrined" the federal Voting Rights Act protections for minority access or "enhanced" them. She and Frieden engaged in a technical back-and-forth that ultimately saw Hukill accuse her of making conflicting statements.
"I am not going to be badgered by this," Freidin said.
That drew the ire of several lawmakers who told her to "toughen up" and prepare for a "rocky road."
"The Florida Way"
Mark Lane reminds us that "this is Florida, so we take for granted that there's always some big tract of woodland on the far edge of town being sliced, diced, resurveyed, remapped and replatted for the next big new development that's only one business cycle away from being the area's next prestige address."
But what's striking this time around is the certainty on the part of both local government and builders that there will be another Florida land boom. That this boom will happen sooner than you think, and everybody needs to be on the ground floor."When you wish upon a boom . . .".
This is an article of faith. It's The Florida Way.
You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who'd say out loud that the state may be in a long-term leveling off of growth that might outlast the Great Recession.
No surprise. A Florida with just-average growth is not the kind of place most people with long memories have ever experienced.
This makes a regular-growth Florida hard to imagine. But that doesn't mean it can't happen. Migration patterns are changing. The Baby Boom generation is getting older and less mobile. Hard times are making people stay put. And Florida's job market is not something anyone wants to experience on purpose.
Yet the push to build and permit continues. Everybody wants to get their plans approved early in case the Hometown Democracy Amendment is passed this November and it will take a political campaign to amend a growth plan.
Now, these are all fine, next-generation, New Urbanism-influenced, conservation-land set-aside-heavy projects. There's not another Deltona in the bunch. But they all are built on a faith that the next boom is inevitable.
A faith that is either inspiring or alarming, depending on your vision for the future here.
Local election laws
A major Florida Supreme Court election law case: "Local governments have a right to pass their own laws when it comes to conducting elections as long as there is no conflict with state laws, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in connection with a Sarasota County case. The ruling stems from the successful effort by the Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections, or SAFE, to win voter approval that paper ballots be used in Sarasota County elections. The measure passed in November 2006 in the same election featuring the contested Florida 13th Congressional District election that spurred the state to eventually ban touch-screen voting machines in favor of a voting system that used paper ballots."
The high court noted that the main aim of the ballot question requiring paper ballots is now moot, since Florida law has since banned the use of touch-screen machines except for those who cannot use the paper ballot system because of a handicap.More: "State Supreme Court endorses local election laws".
But the court did take the opportunity to overrule a lower court decision that had found against the Sarasota political action committee.
"It's a huge victory for the citizens of Florida," said Tom Shults, the attorney for SAFE. "It confirmed the ability of the people at the county level to enact law that would ensure the accuracy of elections."
While the Legislature does not have an exclusive right to make election laws, state law does trump local law when there is a conflict, the court noted. And there is a conflict between state law and a provision of the charter amendment regarding recounts and certifications of elections. That part of the Sarasota County law was struck down as unconstitutional.
"State Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, who's bucking to become Florida's House Speaker in 2014, had his drivers license suspended in November for failing to have auto insurance, according to state records."
On Thursday, it was reinstated.And, as if it were some sort of mystery,
Dorworth, 33, a land developer, said Friday that he would never let his auto coverage lapse and the state got it wrong.
"I went down yesterday and showed them I had proof of insurance," he said. "It was wrongly suspended two months ago."
Dorworth said the mix-up may have come when he and his wife, Elizabeth Shale Dorworth, 31, ended their joint auto coverage in September. They now have separate addresses.
Chris Dorworth would not say whether they have separated."Lake Mary lawmaker's drivers license suspended".
"We seem at best to be treading water or drowning ..."
Stephen Goldstein thinks "something's seriously out-of-whack. In crass terms, we ain't gettin' an adequate return on our investment. Poverty rates, health insurance coverage, educational achievement —none of these and other important indicators are improving at rates that equal all the time, energy, and money invested in them. Year after year, we seem at best to be treading water or drowning in a sea of failed opportunity. Our problems get bigger; our answers, less and less effective at meeting challenges." "Fighting poverty: Florida needs to make better use of resources".
"A South Florida non-profit group and community volunteers have processed more than 1,000 applications for Haitians seeking Temporary Protected Status since a Jan. 12 earthquake tore apart the Caribbean nation." "More than 1,000 local Haitians file for TPS".
Score one for the entrepreneurs
"In a stunning move, a federal judge on Friday acquitted former Miami drug agent Tom Raffanello of shredding documents to protect now disgraced banker Allen Stanford, saying prosecutors failed to prove their case against the ex-lawman." "Judge acquits both ex-Allen Stanford workers in document shredding case".
"Brian Feldman Marries Anybody"
"It's not hard to get married in Florida. Just ask Brian Feldman and Hannah Miller, two almost-strangers who were wed Friday, two days before Valentine's Day, to make a political point."
Before a crowd of 30-some onlookers, Feldman and Miller took their vows just because they could — and because two people of the same sex cannot."Performance artist Brian Feldman marries stranger to make political point".
Feldman saw it as a performance-art piece, Brian Feldman Marries Anybody, devised to protest the fact that, while two strangers can marry in Florida as long as they're of the opposite sex, committed same-sex couples must be turned away.
In fact, visual artists Rachel Gardiner and Nicki Drumb tried to apply for a marriage license Friday just before the Feldman-Miller nuptials at the Orange County Courthouse — and a marriage-license bureau staffer turned them down, just as they had been turned down the year before.
Feldman, a familiar face on the quirky end of Orlando's arts community, chose Miller to marry by spinning an Aquafina water bottle Monday afternoon at the marriage-license bureau, where three young women, all of them more or less strangers, showed up to offer themselves to the project.
No Czar needed
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "State needs no 'Haiti czar'".
Marco rakes in $860,000 via a money bomb: "The donations were timed to the one-year anniversary Wednesday of Crist appearing at a rally with Democratic President Barack Obama to support the president’s $787 billion stimulus plan." "Rubio’s $860,000 week".
State sanctioned dogfighting
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Mention hunting dogs and you might think of hounds baying in the woods or a retriever diving for a duck. But that image doesn’t fit with the type of dog hunting on the agenda of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. When the agency considers the fate of fox pens, it should ban them. ... These pens are, in essence, dogfighting arenas sanctioned by the state. Operators build a sturdy fence around a tract of land, stock it with foxes, coyotes or both, and turn loose a pack of hunting dogs to chase them down." "Put an end to inhumane hunts".