FLORIDA POLITICS
Since 2002, daily Florida political news and commentary

 

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Welcome To Florida Politics

Thanks for visiting. On a 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, March 07, 2010

LeMieux preparing to take on Nelson

    "Since his appointment to the U.S. Senate, George LeMieux has been tireless in keeping his name before the public."
    Though only a temporary lawmaker, filling the final 16 months of retired Sen. Mel Martinez's term, LeMieux has been relentless in trying to generate notice, whether through news releases or Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or extensive travel.

    The 40-year-old Republican, a former chairman of the Broward GOP, says he is working hard to represent Florida and communicating in ways that reflect a changing society. But there is a clear end game: The part-time senator wants a full-time gig.

    Until recently, LeMieux was someone who was defined by his lack of public persona, the behind-the-scenes conductor of Gov. Charlie Crist's political machine. Since Crist appointed him in September, LeMieux has been rapidly working to transform himself into a viable brand of his own.

    For now, that ambition points in a provocative direction: The seat currently held by Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who is up for reelection in 2012.
    "U.S. Senator George LeMieux proving to be media savvy".


    Florida's "slavery problem"

    "A traveling museum is bringing attention to the slavery problem that still exists in Florida's agricultural industry." "Museum highlights modern-day slavery problem in Florida".


    Wingnuttery

    "South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, a hard-line conservative who's challenging the national Republican Party leadership, came to Tampa on Saturday backing conservative U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio."

    He has friends in Florida. State Rep. Will Weatherford of Wesley Chapel introduced DeMint, calling him "Doctor No to earmarks to nowhere," and county party Chairwoman Debbie Cox-Roush called him "the only senator with a 100 percent conservative ranking."

    A hero to the tea party movement, DeMint shook up the GOP by forming the Senate Conservatives Fund, a PAC to back conservative Senate candidates, some of whom were running against Republicans backed by the party.
    "DeMint backs Rubio in U.S. Senate run".


    NASA

    "In the latest sign that his NASA vision is in peril, President Barack Obama will announce today his plans to host a space summit in Florida on April 15." "Obama plans space summit in Florida to defend his vision for NASA".


    Whatever Jebbie wants ...

    Today's Mike Thomas column is a real laffer. He begins with a little background about the latest wingnut crusade in Tally:

    Florida legislators' arch-enemies, the teacher unions, are the focus of reforms [sic].

    Tallahassee is sticking a load of dynamite under the old schoolhouse.

    The public-education model in Florida is about to go ka-boom.

    All it will take is for legislators to sign off on some pending bills. That is a given, as conservatives now firmly control the state capital.

    And their arch-enemies, the teacher unions, are the focus of the reforms.

    Gone will be teacher tenure and the job security it provides. Gone will be across-the-board raises and layoffs based on seniority.
    Thomas continues:
    The traditionally moderate Senate has taken a hard turn to the right. The new 500-pound gorilla is Sen. John Thrasher, just appointed as the Republican Party chairman. He is a former speaker of the Florida House, a close ally of Jeb Bush, the man who helped steer Jeb's revolutionary [sic] accountability reforms through the Legislature in 1999. And his fingerprints are all over these new reforms.

    Together again: Jeb & John.

    For Jeb, it is about finishing the job he started more than 10 years ago, making Florida a national model for 21st century education.
    And here's the big prize for the knuckle-draggers - as a result of the so-called "reforms",
    Teachers effectively join most other employees in Florida as at-will workers[*]. That vastly diminishes the power of teachers unions[**]. And don't think that isn't an added perk for Republicans [and their allies like Thomas].

    Teachers will be under more pressure. Like an NBA player in the last year of his contract, those who haven't been putting in the effort will have to up their game.

    Will the good ones flee? I seriously doubt it. But I also think the state has to put a big chunk of merit pay money on the table to make this work and attract people into the profession.
    Read the rest of it here: "Reforms will break mold for teachers' jobs".

    - - - - - - - - - -
    *It is no secret how "at-will" employment works: for example, Florida's at-will employees (i.e., employees without contracts) can be terminated for egregious acts like reporting crimes, laughing at work, or even outrageous behavior like exercising their "constitutionally protected rights." (so says the Florida Supreme Court in DeMarco v. Publix Super Markets, Inc., 384 So.2d 1253 (Fla. 1980)). See generally "Take this job ..." and "Another Tale from the Long, Wonderful History of American Employment-At-Will".

    People like "Jeb!", Thomas and the rest of the tea-bagging crowd apparently think at-will employment is a good thing.

    On a related point, we have previously discussed how employees of the Orlando Sentinel, like Thomas - absent some serious disclosures about the anti-union record of the company they work for - really have no business opining about employment and union related matters. See "Unions at it again" (scroll down).

    **If teachers are reduced to mere "at-will" status, there are only two things the teacher can do to ensure job security: on one hand, (s)he can engage in excessive brown nosing and ass kissing in the hope that the boss will not treat him or her unfairly or he can seek a contract with his employer that sets forth job protections. The latter - establishment of contractual job protections - is most easily done collectively, via a union.

    Hence, Thomas' assertion that eliminating teacher tenure will "vastly diminish the power of teachers unions" is silly: if teachers are to be treated as mere "at-will" employees, which Jebbie and his friends like Thomas would have it, teachers will actually be more likely to join unions. As noted, one of the main things labor unions do (ask the 30,000 unionized employees at Disney, and the unionized firefighters and cops around the state) is to protect employees from being treated as mere at-will employees. To that end, unions negotiate contracts with job protections and fight against unjust discharges. If anything, then, eliminating statutory tenure will enhance, not diminish, the role of unions.


    "Playing it safe"

    "As state lawmakers grapple with how to close a $3.2 billion budget gap and shrink unemployment ranks, Florida's leading candidates for governor are playing it safe. Neither Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum nor Democrat Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink has advanced a bold agenda to influence any of the major policies that either could inherit on inauguration day in January." "Leading candidates for Florida governor cautious on issues".


    But Jebbie said ...

    ... he fixed it with the FCAT ...

    "Floridians concerned about K-12 education got a sobering, and worrisome, assessment courtesy of a 2009 report from the Florida Reading Council. The study showed that 55 percent of Florida's college freshmen required some sort of remedial class work." "Editorial: Dump FCAT in high school, rely on college placement exams".


    Hypocrisy alert

    Aaron Deslatte: "On the eve of a budget-balancing session in which they'll have to tap federal stimulus cash for the third year running, Florida's Republican legislative leadership held a press conference to call on Washington to rein in its expanding fiscal waistline." "Partisanship is Legislature’s watchword".


    Bought and paid for

    The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Florida's business community is lobbying the friendly Republican-controlled Legislature for new laws that would make it much harder for injured people to collect damages. Maybe a few legal tweaks are needed, but these bills would tilt the law too heavily toward insulating businesses from liability." "Protect the people".


    Bad hair cut

    Adam C Smith: "A fired-up Charlie Crist charmed a hometown crowd in St. Petersburg Saturday, and made it abundantly clear we'll be hearing a lot about Marco Rubio's state GOP credit card spending in the coming months. Credit card statements from 2007 show Rubio charged $134.75 at a tony Miami barber shop." "Crist gives Rubio a buzz cut for $135 bill at barbershop".


    Never mind

    The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Florida voters thought they had good reasons 18 years ago to limit terms in the Legislature to eight years."

    They were striking a blow against arrogant, career politicians whose name recognition and rich campaign coffers empowered them to operate without much fear of losing an election.

    A limit on terms was supposed to guarantee a steady stream of new blood. It would force lawmakers to be more accountable. It would weaken and humble them.

    Ask a voter today if they're in favor of all that, and the answer will probably be: "You're darn tootin' I am!"

    But Florida's experiment with term limits has made clear to careful observers that an arbitrary eight-year limit has very bad side effects. Lobbyists have gained power. Term-limited lawmakers tend to focus on short-term results and ignore long-term consequences. They cater more to the special interests than to the electorate.

    Many members do not understand the complexities and history of issues such as growth management, property taxes, water and health care, to name a few.

    Unknown, freshly elected representatives immediately begin campaigning for leadership positions. Those who wait get left behind.
    "Repeal term limits".


    "Two ways to test the commitment to democracy"

    The Tallahassee Democrat editors: "Florida voters have two ways to test the commitment to democracy of every voting bloc from Tea Party conservatives to "post-racial" liberals. One: Participate in the 2010 Census. Two: Vote in favor the Fair Districts amendment proposals at the state and federal levels." "Our Opinion: A clean slate".


    SeaWorld

    Pierre Tristam: "Disturbingly recent exceptions aside, civilized nations now agree that burning fellow human beings at the stake, torturing them or enslaving them is inhuman. The day will come when civilized nations will agree that imprisoning wild animals in zoos, whipping them about in circus acts from city to city or forcing them to do tricks for our amusement in such places as SeaWorld, Marineland and Epcot is as cruel to the animals as it is lewd of the people watching them."

    This isn't to argue against domestication or even the slaughtering of animals. We are animals and predators. But domesticating an animal for help or companionship and certainly killing an animal for sustenance will always be more morally defensible than taming one for entertainment or "education." (The less defensible gobs of cruelty in the chicken farms and the feedlots of the West, where cattle are turned into walking mummies of drugs and fat, have more to do with a nation's gluttony than sustenance. But that's another story.)

    Places like SeaWorld love to claim that their shows give people a close-up of something unique that fosters an appreciation for nature and conservation. Florida residents give the lie to that invention. They've been converging on SeaWorld from subdivisions that have plowed under entire ecosystems and obliterated the habitats of 111 plants and animals (at last count). That's not about to change.
    Much more here: "A look at man through the vapid eyes of his captives". Related: "Amid thrills, theme parks can have real dangers".


    "SunScam State"

    The Palm Beach Post's Randy Schultz asks: "Aren't you tired of it? Aren't you tired of Florida in general, and South Florida in particular, being the scam capital of the Southeast?"

    We all know about the political corruption. Three former Palm Beach County commissioners are in prison. Two ex-West Palm Beach city commissioners did time and are out. Broward County features Scott Rothstein, the Bernie Madoff Mini-Me, and other political scandals at various levels. Miami-Dade for decades has been known as the county that runs on graft.

    But it's so much more. It's Medicare and Medicaid fraud. As a senator, Bob Graham started a whole task force on that 13 years ago. It's auto insurance fraud, which South Florida has exported to Orlando and Tampa Bay. It's boiler-room, white-collar scamming in my hometown of Boca Raton.

    And now, it's pain-pill smuggling.
    "SunScam State? Enough: Create a climate that discourages crime, corruption". See also "Two charged with running fraudulent student visa ring".


    Phony veterans

    "Beware the phony veterans. That was the message from some state lawmakers gathered at the VA Primary Care Clinic here on Friday." "New state bills introduced to combat phony veterans". See also "Impersonating military vets for donations would be felony under state rep’s bill".


    The RPOFer economy ...

    ... a house of cards, which is now collapsing: "Foreclosures swamping county, courts".


    "Take it or leave it"

    "The Florida Senate has come out with a new Seminole Indian gambling deal — and this time, the chamber is telling Gov. Charlie Crist and the tribe: Take it or leave it."

    The new Senate bill has the same terms as last year's version. It would give the tribe blackjack at four of its seven resorts, including the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood and the Coconut Creek casino, in exchange for at least $150 million a year.
    "Senate pushes to end gambling talks with take-it-or-leave-it plan".


    "A sly way to get around the law"

    The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "State law doesn't allow them. Local governments get around the prohibition by treating red-light infractions as code enforcement violations, like overgrown grass, as opposed to moving violations."

    It's a sly way to get around the law. Cities have been getting away with it for years, putting up cameras that spy on drivers and snap a digital photo automatically when a vehicle is perceived to have crossed against a red light. It's time for the Legislature to clarify the law. Either cameras are allowed or they're not. There should be no middle ground cities can exploit, as they do now, resulting in a patchwork of rules and penalties from one city, and sometimes one suburb, to the next. A Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge was right when he ruled that traffic laws are state laws, that red-light cameras are a mode of enforcing traffic laws, but that absent a state law allowing traffic cameras, they may not be used. The judge ruled that traffic ticketing may only take place when a live law enforcement officer is present.
    "Red-light cameras: Either standardize use or ban them".


    "Tough love or political terror"

    Mary Ann Lindley: "Week One of the Florida Legislature has wrapped up, and everyone's hands are tied, with instructions to cut and chop and spend no money before its time."

    I don't know if it's tough love or political terror that Speaker Larry Crutel has invoked in his long list of ways to say "no," but all House members got the memo Thursday: no new taxes, never, ever.

    Likewise, Florida TaxWatch, calling upon its own white-collar task force of prominent Floridians, on Thursday delivered 87 ways to shape up government through "cost savings." ...

    The concept of investing in a better state — in our universities, early-learning efforts, preventive health and public safety programs — and getting something valuable back in the long run seems to remain beyond consideration, even though it could be done with a more fair and broad-based tax structure.

    Yet while legislators are instructed not to spend a dime or raise a dime of taxpayers' money, that doesn't mean they don't happily collect and spend money to advance their own ambitions.

    Right down to the end of the day on Monday, before the session convened on Tuesday morning, lawmakers around town were fundraising at breakfast, lunch and the cocktail hour — and not subtly.
    "Love to raise it but hate to spend it".


    Big spenders

    "The top 10 spenders were evenly split among Democrats and Republicans." "Florida Congressmen spend tax money on luxury cars, high salaries and perks".


    Walking with the dinosaurs

    "Top home-school texts dismiss Darwin, evolution".


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