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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 Tuesday, March 30, 2010

McCollum widens lead

    "Attorney General Bill McCollum's decision to sue the federal government over healthcare reform looks like a political winner, according to a new poll showing that he has widened his lead over state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink in the race for governor."
    The Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey released Monday shows that 51 percent of registered Florida voters approve of McCollum's lawsuit, while 39 percent are opposed.

    As the state appears to lean toward the right, the Republican McCollum draws 49 percent support compared to 34 percent who would vote for Sink, a Democrat, according to the poll of 625 registered Florida voters. ...

    McCollum appears to be picking up momentum. The last time Mason-Dixon polled the race, in June, McCollum had a 6 percentage point lead. Now he's up 15 percentage points.

    Voters have begun to view McCollum in a better light, with 39 percent saying they have a favorable view of the attorney general -- a 10 percentage-point increase since the last Mason-Dixon poll. In that time, Sink's numbers haven't moved, with 24 percent of voters expressing a favorable view of her.
    "Poll: Bill McCollum widens lead on Alex Sink in governor's race". See also "McCollum leads Sink by 15 points in governor’s race", "Poll: McCollum widens his lead" and "McCollum leads Sink by 15 points in governor's race according to latest Mason-Dixon poll".

    Meek arrives

    "U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek on Monday gave elections officials the last of the petitions signed by voters to get him on the ballot, capping an almost year-long effort intended to build momentum for his U.S. Senate race." "Kendall Meek turns in petitions to get on Florida ballot". See also "Meek touts success using petitions to get on ballot" and "Meek turns in petitions for Senate run".

    RPOFer "food fight"

    The Miami Herald editorial board: "The food fight among dueling leaders of Florida's Republican Party over who misspent money is demeaning for the party faithful and its donors. As the GOP conducts an audit of spending, officials should consider tougher rules to tighten use of state party credit cards and other funding sources."

    What's obvious is that both sides played fast and loose with donors' money.

    Gov. Charlie Crist, deeply behind in his bid for the U.S. Senate against former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, used Sunday's Fox News debate to accuse his opponent of using his party credit card and political committees for ``personal enrichment.''

    But Mr. Crist's Senate campaign benefited as well from charges on a party credit card by former state GOP Chairman Jim Greer. Mr. Greer's lavish spending on the job led to his ouster months after he and Mr. Crist stonewalled his GOP critics.

    While no expenditures seem to have involved taxpayers' money, the image of Florida Republicans -- the party that touts fiscal conservatism -- is one of freewheeling big spenders. New GOP Chairman John Thrasher will have to crack the whip as he tries to unify a party riven over the Crist-Rubio contest.

    Mr. Rubio used his party credit card for some personal expenses and double-billed state taxpayers and the GOP for eight plane tickets when he was in the House, the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau reported. Mr. Rubio has acknowledged mistakes and made some reimbursements for personal items and double-billing.

    More questionable is that not much of the $600,000 contributed to Mr. Rubio's two political committees seems to have gone for their intended purpose -- "to support state and local candidates who espouse conservative government policies.'' Over 18 months, just $4,000 from one committee went to candidates. Far more went to political consultants, administrative and operating costs and to Mr. Rubio and his relatives.
    "GOP big spenders".

    The sky is falling

    "Corrections chief: Cuts might free 2,500 inmates".

    "Brief slap fight ensues ..."

    Howard Troxler nails the debate:

    CRIST: I signed the largest tax cut in history and Speaker Rubio supported the biggest tax increase in history.

    RUBIO: You did not! I did not!

    CRIST: Did too.

    RUBIO: Did not!

    (Brief slap fight ensues.)
    Much more here:"Clash of the titans (Am not! Are too!)".

    Yee haw!

    "Fanfare, flags and a marching band greeted the team selecting the site for the 2012 Republican National Convention during a tour of Tampa hot spots Monday." "Tampa makes bid for 2012 Republican convention". See also "Tampa woos RNC for 2012 convention".

    Aronberg and Gelber vs. McCollum

    "State Sens. Dave Aronberg and Dan Gelber are fighting each other for the Democratic nomination for Florida attorney general, but sounded Monday more like they were fighting against outgoing Attorney General Bill McCollum."

    ``The once great office has been diminished because in the past few years we've had people in the attorney general's office who cared more about protecting their political careers than protecting public safety,'' Aronberg told Suncoast Tiger Bay club luncheon, referring to McCollum and former Attorney General Charlie Crist.

    Gelber likewise, scoffed at McCollum suing to overturn the healthcare overhaul.

    "We have an attorney general who believes it's his job every single day [to be focused on] a frivolous lawsuit directing the attention of his office, like there's not enough pill mills or gangs in town that he can spend his time doing this,'' Gelber said. "It's clearly nothing other than a political attempt to advance his gubernatorial campaign.''
    "Rivals fight for Democratic spot on Florida attorney general ballot".

    Related: "Political health care lawsuit: McCollum picks wrong case, takes wrong side." and "McCollum's Medicaid myths: Under new law, Florida could come out ahead.".

    Crawling out of their holes

    Marco Rubio gives wingnuts like columnist Mike Thomas an excuse to crawl out of their holes into the sunlight: "Classic Charlie Crist is far cry from Marco Rubio’s truthful conservatism".

    Teacher bashing fails

    The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Florida's surprising failure on Monday to win an initial Race to the Top education grant should send a signal to Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Legislature:"

    For reform to succeed, it's important to work as partners with the teachers who would carry it out. Unfortunately, the Legislature is headed in the other direction.

    Delaware and Tennessee, Monday's two winners, put together applications that had substantial backing from the teachers and their unions. Florida's application, in contrast, had support from only 59 of 67 school districts and just five teacher unions and scrambled until the last minute to get that. ...

    The Department of Education and the Legislature need to reach out to teachers for their help in crafting a better system for performance review and pay. The teacher unions need to reach out to education officials and state lawmakers and be willing to compromise. Otherwise, the Republican legislative leaders are going to do what they want and Florida can forget about Race to the Top money as it sinks to the bottom.
    "Hard lessons from grant loss". Background: "Florida denied Race to the Top grant".

    Here's an idea: blame the union! See "Teachers Union Accused of Placing Hurdles in Race to Top".

    Tally update

    The Tallahassee Democrat's "Legislature summary". The Saint Petersburg Times's "State Report".

    McCollum, "champion of the insurance industry"

    Daniel Ruth: "In the time it took for Vice President Joe Biden to do his very public impression of Rahm Emanuel, Bill McCollum couldn't get to the courthouse fast enough as a champion of the insurance industry, oops, sorry, make that the common man."

    Florida's attorney general has become the macho man among his brethren from 12 other states in leading the opposition to President Barack Obama's health care reforms, claiming it is unconstitutional for the federal government to tell people to do stuff.

    Who knew?
    "McCollum's healthy interest in our… votes".

    Pension bashing continues

    The Orlando Sentinel editorial board, shilling for the Chamber of Commerce, wants you to know that State and County employees actually have the temerity to ... get this ... have pensions:

    The [pension] fund, which covers county and some city employees, in addition to state employees, gets money from their agencies — which ultimately comes from taxpayers. As its assets decline, taxpayers must make up the difference.

    The fund does not, however, get a single dollar from the employees themselves. That makes Florida's system different from its counterparts in 44 other states, where employees contribute a share of their salaries to their retirements. That's also normal for private pension funds.

    A task force from Florida TaxWatch, a Tallahassee think-tank [comprised of business types], has estimated that requiring new members in the state fund to contribute 5 percent of their salaries, the median level in other states, would raise $1.2 billion — $245 million for the state and $952 million for local governments.

    In another example of reckless generosity, Florida's fund gives retirees a 3 percent cost of living increase in their pensions every year, regardless of inflation.

    Capping those increases at inflation or 3 percent — whichever is less — would reduce the payout for state and local governments by $150 million next year, TaxWatch says. It also would help close the funding gap by reducing the growth in future benefits.

    Some lawmakers understand the need to reduce the burden of pensions on taxpayers, but the plans now moving in the Legislature are too timid to be taken seriously. Last week, a Senate committee approved a bill to require employees to contribute — get this — one quarter of 1 percent of their salaries.
    The editors can't resist throwing in their standard anti-union drivel:
    Lawmakers are going to run into opposition from employee unions no matter what cuts they propose. They might as well make meaningful ones, and make a real difference in solving the pension fund's problems.
    "Close the pension gap".

    Ironic how the other Tribune Company editors just happened to come up with the identical editorial two days ago; seems there is something other than "great minds think alike" going on here. The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Florida must enact pension reform before inflated retirements bankrupt the state".

    These editorial board dopes for some reason can never bring themselves to tell their poor readers that
    "Florida's average total compensation cost for state employees was $47,027, which included 74 percent wages and 26 percent benefits; average wages were $34,834," said OPPAGA. "Florida's average state employee wages were ranked 32nd among the 41 states to the survey."

    It also noted the Department of Management Services Annual Workforce Report, which said Florida ranks last in state personnel costs, at $38 per resident, and is tied with Illinois for the lowest ratio of state employees to population, 118 per 10,000 residents.
    "OPPAGA looks at state compensation" (March 29, 2010).

    Say again? Florida already "last in state personnel costs, at $38 per resident, and is tied with Illinois for the lowest ratio of state employees to population", and the editors still want to take more out of the hides of these poor public employees. There's some deep thinking for 'ya.

    Club for Dopes

    "A new player has waded into Florida's U.S. Senate race, though, technically, it's not taking sides. Club for Growth Action is airing radio ads along Central Florida's I-4 Corridor condemning Gov. Charlie Crist's Everglades land deal with U.S. Sugar." "Crist Hammered by Growth". See also "Everglades deal blasted in anti-Charlie Crist radio spot".

    FlaDems do some grading

    "Democrats Hand Out Midterm Grades for House Session".

    "The equation is alarmingly simple"

    Alberto M. Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade Public Schools writes this morning that "the numbers don't lie, and the equation is alarmingly simple: Shrinking property values + less money from the state = a projected $190 million shortfall for Miami-Dade's public schools next year." "State must ante up funding".

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