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 Saturday, March 06, 2010

"Mr. Chips From Hell"

    Daniel Ruth hits a grand slam this morning.

    He writes: "Yep, to be sure, this is a mere bagatelle of a do-nothing job — modest pay, grading papers for hours, overseeing six to seven packed classes a day, attending to parent conferences, dealing with the occasional brawl, being forced to teach to a cockamamie test. And all the while clucking Tallahassee politicians are looking over your shoulder telling you what a lousy, stinking job you're doing and threatening your livelihood."
    Given all those lush fringe benefits, who wouldn't want to be a public school teacher?

    Or more to the point, let's put it this way. State Sen. John Thrasher, R-The Mr. Chips From Hell, wouldn't last five minutes in a Florida public school classroom before finding himself more dazed and confused than Sarah Palin contemplating a world atlas.

    Yet Thrasher and a bunch of his fellow truants from reality in the Florida Legislature seem bent on making it more difficult for our public school teachers to achieve tenure, easier to fire them and more difficult to — teach.

    Under Thrasher's proposal, current protections for classroom teachers' job security would be eviscerated and even more stringent requirements for end-of-year exams implemented and linked to educator evaluations.
    "Bad idea needs a good thrashing".


    Mad dog Charlie

    William March on Crist's reverting to his history of attack dog campaigningy: "Bruised from a pummeling in polls and conservative media for six months, Gov. Charlie Crist is fighting back in the Republican U.S. Senate primary."

    With his 18-year political career in peril, Crist, who has never held back from negative campaigning, is attacking opponent Marco Rubio.

    He has ceased the frontrunner's strategy of ignoring Rubio, and criticizes him at every opportunity - though Crist usually calls him as "my opponent" or "the speaker."
    "Crist has been moving in this direction for two or three weeks, but the new strategy hit the forefront this week in Crist's State of the State address Tuesday night and in a National Review interview Thursday, when Crist launched his sharpest attacks yet."
    In the speech, he repeatedly urged legislators to temper political rhetoric with practicality, a clear reference to the primary race.

    "Taken to an extreme, conviction becomes inflexible, even destructive," Crist said. "We do a disservice to the people who elected us ... to elevate ideology over problem-solving."

    The lines drew applause from Democrats but silent stares from many in Crist's own party.

    In the interview, he called Rubio's claim to conservatism the "greatest fraud perpetrated on people," and added, "When this guy calls himself the real conservative in the race, I've got to point out that it's the opposite." ...

    Recent polls have shown Crist as much as 18 points behind among GOP primary voters; the Real Clear Politics Web site gives Rubio an average 12-point lead in recent polls.
    Much more here: "Pragmatic Crist launches offensive blitz".


    Keep your wingnut specula outa my ...

    "Doctor, patient part ways over health care debate".


    Pill mills

    The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "A raid this week by federal and Palm Beach County authorities on pain clinics owned by twin brothers Chris and Jeff George is a welcome sign that law enforcement considers prescription-drug trafficking to be a serious issue. Gov. Crist and the legislature must now take the problem just as seriously." "'Pill mill' raid should prompt Legislature to act".


    Week 2

    "On the agenda in Week Two in the Florida Legislature: Gambling and the budget. Less than a week old, the annual lawmaking session already has a big focus on the budget. A new revenue estimate for the upcoming 2010-2011 budget year comes out Tuesday and lawmakers are beginning to grapple with how to close an expected $3.2 billion shortfall." "Legislature taking aim at budget and gambling".


    "Public Wants Stronger Reform"

    Although not directly related to Florida politics, this dKos piece exposes the traditional media's, perhaps unintentional, misrepresentation of public opinion regarding HCR:

    Barry Sussman, editor of the Nieman Watchdog Project at Harvard's Nieman Foundation for Journalism, goes beyond the headlines screaming public opposition to healthcare reform.
    Comes now (Feb. 26-28) a McClatchy/Ipsos poll of 1,076 people that on first glance offers rocks to sling at Obama. The lead question asks, "As of right now, do you favor or oppose the health care reform proposals presently being discussed?” Forty-one percent said they favored them, 47 percent said they were opposed, and the rest said they were unsure. Those are numbers the Republican leaders could work with.

    But the pollsters went a step further, asking those opposed – 509 people in all – if they were against the proposals because they “don’t go far enough to reform health care” or because they go too far. Thirty-seven percent said it was because the proposals don’t go far enough. Thus – are you ready for this? – the addition of an obvious, simple follow-up question completely turns the tables. The overall numbers switch to 59 percent in favor of health care reform, 30 percent against. Putting aside those with no opinion, it becomes 66 percent in favor of health care reform, 34 percent against. Some would call that a consensus, or these days, a super majority.

    Whoa, what happened here: a plurality against health care reform actually is a landslide in favor of it? In the same poll? If other surveys turn up similar data, will Republican leaders stop citing public opinion as the basis for opposing Obama’s health care legislation? Fat chance.
    "Digging into the Polls on HCR: Public Wants Stronger Reform".

    The business community, speaking through their traditional media editorial boards, don't care: see The Orlando Sentinel editorial board's "Don't pull a fast one with health reform".


    He was quickly returned to his country club

    "Trappers catch 200-pound wild hog in affluent Plantation Acres".


    "More concerned with partisan rhetoric than bipartisan solutions"

    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 [Tea-bagger alert!] , Florida's Republican legislative leadership held a press conference to call on Washington to rein in its expanding fiscal waistline."

    Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, and House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, called on Congress to send a constitutional amendment to the states requiring a balanced federal budget.

    "Unless something is done about federal spending, Florida will drown in debt," Atwater said, ignoring the $15.7 billion in federal stimulus cash he and other lawmakers have used to balance Florida's budget over the past three years.

    But Atwater is running statewide for chief financial officer. So he, like a bunch of other Republicans and Democrats, is much more concerned with partisan rhetoric than bipartisan solutions.
    "Partisanship is Legislature’s watchword".


    Grayson

    As reported yesterday, "FL-08: Grayson leads, er, Republican primary". Inasmuch as Grayson actually "has almost twice as much support among Republicans as all his Republican opponents combined", we look forward to seeing which super-lightweight-RPOFer the Orlando Sentinel will endorse against Grayson in the general.


    "A glimpse of the gun lobby's hold on lawmakers"

    The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Think members of the Florida Legislature were willing to take the proverbial bullet by opposing the National Rifle Association and its defense of a state trust fund as a Second Amendment issue? Wishful thinking. Floridians are about to get a glimpse of the gun lobby's hold on lawmakers. And this time, the issue isn't even about actual gun ownership. It's money." "Setting up gun fund as sacred cow is poor budget management".


    Why build houses ...

    ... when we have plenty of freeway overpasses? "Florida officials last March heralded the arrival of $91.1 million in federal assistance devoted to uplifting neighborhoods struggling with abandoned and foreclosed homes. A year later, very little of the money has been spent, putting the state at risk of losing millions in housing dollars." "Florida slow to spend federal grant money to refurbish housing".


    Everything for sale

    "With the economy in the tank, a Florida lawmaker is considering an unusual idea to raise money: Let corporations pay to put logos on license plates. The idea of a letting corporations like Disney or Nike sponsor license plates is being floated by state Sen. Mike Fasano, a New Port Richey Republican and transportation budget chairman." "Company names may go on tags".


    Praise from Charlie ...

    ... may not be as helpful as it used to be.

    Nevertheless, "State Sen. Dave Aronberg, a Democratic candidate for attorney general, is trying to appeal across party lines with an eye toward the general election. He's portraying himself as a politician focused on principles rather than partisan warfare. The 'About Dave' page on his campaign Web site says, 'The Naples Daily News called him 'the real deal,' and Governor Charlie Crist has praised him as 'a rock star.''"

    So Aronberg is correct. He's leaving out Crist's qualifier, that Aronberg is "almost" a rock star. But that still puts Aronberg on the big stage. We find his claim True.
    "Crist sang praises of Democrat".


    It was a nice sound bite

    "An outside financial advisor has warned water managers that plummeting revenues could leave them with a difficult choice between cutting operations and maintenance or sticking to Gov. Charlie Crist's controversial deal with the U.S. Sugar Corp. The memo, sent last month to the chief financial officer of the South Florida Water Management District, paints a bleak forecast, with deficits projected to increase to $110 million by 2012 if it pursues the $536 million land buy for Everglades restoration." "Financial advisor warns sugar land purchase for Everglades restoration could overwhelm South Florida Water Management District". See also "State expert: U.S. Sugar deal to create deficits".


    Central Florida's two chamber blast

    Aaron Deslatte:

    A week after the GOP announced that state Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, had the votes locked up to be House speaker in 2014, word leaked out that freshman Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, is close to having enough pledges to lead his chamber over the same two-year period.

    Short of a seismic shift in the November elections, Central Florida is already slated to have two of its own leading both chambers for the 2011-12 terms in Senate President-designate Mike Haridopolos, R-Indialantic, and House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park.
    "Gardiner for president?"


    Rubio on the run

    "Crist's U.S. Senate campaign on Friday accused his opponent, former House Speaker Marco Rubio, of ducking debating in their increasingly contentious Republican primary." "Senate candidates debate debating; lawmakers want fishing review; and more".


    Okaloosa memories

    "On Feb. 27, 2009, Okaloosa County Sheriff Charlie Morris got up early, put $5,000 in his pocket and stepped out of his hotel room at Caesar's Palace casino in Las Vegas. He walked into the waiting arms of FBI agents, who arrested him on charges of theft, fraud and money laundering." "One year after Okaloosa County sheriff's fall, agency shines resilient".


    Never mind

    Steve Bousquet: "When Gov. Charlie Crist signed the law in 2007 that abolished touch screen voting in Florida, one exception remained."

    Despite the machines' reputation for untrustworthiness, they would stay online through the 2012 elections for voters who are blind or have other physical disabilities.

    By then, it was hoped, Florida would bless a paper ballot system accessible to the disabled, and touch screens would finally be a relic of elections past, like dimpled chad.

    But now that 2012 is approaching, elections supervisors want to keep using touch screens for four more years, through 2016, or the next two presidential elections.
    "Despite law, some elections officials want to keep touch screen voting for disabled".


    Is nothing sacred?

    "Motorcycle chopper sales crash in tough economy".


    No rigs

    "Military backers told a House panel in no uncertain terms Friday that any talk of oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico better not hamper military operations in the region." "Backers of military in Florida oppose extensive drilling in Eastern Gulf".


    Another lazy public employee

    "Miami-Dade Police motorcycle officer in serious but stable condition after Hialeah crash".


    Hasner gone

    "Democrats have long touted House Majority Leader Adam Hasner’s Palm Beach-Broward seat as a pickup opportunity when Hasner leaves this year because of term limits. Republicans have roughly a 39-to-35 percent registration edge in District 87 and have been losing ground over the past eight years." "Dems recruit another candidate for open Hasner seat".


    Burger King in a dither

    "Bill would put calories on menus".


    Charge

    "The Democrats say that all contributions and expenses the party makes have to be reported to the state, but there are contributions and expenses filed with the Federal Elections Commission that aren't on the state report." "State Democrats file complaint against GOP". See also "Democrats file ethics complaint against GOP over finance reports".


    Big of them

    "The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the execution of a Death Row inmate so a hearing can be held to determine the validity of a new standardized IQ test that could spare his life by showing he's mentally retarded." "Florida Supreme Court stays man's execution over IQ test".

    That was all well and good, but it is too bad Florida can't rustle up a few judges like this: "Texas judge says death penalty unconstitutional".


    Bingo

    "Florida taxpayers' tab in bingo-hall battle tops $6 million".


    Florida's phony collective bargaining law

    Jac Wilder VerSteeg exposes Florida's phony collective bargaining law; here's a taste: "To win federal Race to the Top money — awarded for innovation in education — Florida is negotiating with teachers at gunpoint."

    The state wants a billion-dollar piece of the $4 billion Race to the Top pie, and on Thursday was named a finalist. Florida's main "innovation" is to impose on teachers a new evaluation system pegged to students' FCAT scores. Teachers unions hate that, and for good reason, given the FCAT's limitations.

    Federal and state officials knew that unions would hate the idea. That's why the application emphasized signatures from each district's superintendent and school board chairman, but the union president's signature was optional. Of the 64 Florida districts that applied, only five unions signed on.

    Florida's application advanced without union agreement, but districts can't actually get the money unless the new evaluation system is adopted after labor negotiations. How can this impasse be resolved?

    No problem, the state says in its 323-page application. Teacher unions simply will be forced to accept new pay and tenure rules.

    Before nakedly brandishing the gun, the application meanders through some pro-forma happy speak. The state promises to "work collaboratively with union representatives … We are hopeful that the unions will ultimately embrace this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to positively change the culture of teaching and the teaching profession."

    After making those friendly noises, however, the state quickly builds its case for non-collaboration. Florida statutes, the application notes, require unions and districts "to participate actively in the negotiations with an open mind and a sincere desire, as well as making a sincere effort, to resolve differences and come to an agreement."

    And what happens if, despite all these open minds, school districts and unions can't agree? "Florida law provides that the ultimate resolution of school district-teacher union disputes that reach impasse is by the district school board."

    And there you have the gun to the head. If the teacher unions don't agree, school boards can make them accept the new rules anyway.

    This threat comes from the top. Gov. Crist signed the application, as did state Education Commissioner Eric Smith. Attorney General Bill McCollum certifies that legal claims in the application are accurate.
    "Teachers under state's gun".
    "Teachers under state's gun".


    As Crist and Rubio watch Florida burn ...

    ... Meek is on the job: "Meek backs reconciliation vote on health care reform".


    "A hefty price tag"

    "The decision was easy for Gov. Charlie Crist and legislative leaders as they watched the economy sputter and voters seethe in an election year. On the first day of session, the Legislature passed, and Crist signed, a bill that delays for two years a massive unemployment compensation tax hike for nearly a half-million Florida employers. But the relief is only temporary and it comes with a hefty price tag. The interest on federal loans to keep benefits flowing will cost $540 million by 2012." "State to pay $540 million on interest in loans to keep unemployment benefits flowing".


    HD 5

    "A Democrat has thrown her hat and a monkey wrench into the ring in the special election for the District 4 state House. Navarre resident Jan Fernald paid her qualifying fee Friday to join the five Republican men campaigning for the job. Friday was the last day to qualify to run." "Democrat enters District 4 state House race".


    A Broward thing

    "The county's lawmakers agree someone needs to keep a closer watch on unscrupulous practices by officials. Broward's reputation became tarnished last year following indictments of School Board member Beverly Gallagher, County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion and former Miramar Commissioner Fitzroy Salesman on corruption charges."

    Broward's ethics commission requested the state delegation craft a bill for an inspector general -- with Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, a Republican who heads the Legislature's finance and tax council, taking the lead.

    That, some say, may be why the popular measure has gone awry. She is the lone Republican in the delegation -- and running for a Senate seat in a district that has a growing number of residents leaning left.

    "I have to say that if there were two Democrats sponsoring this bill, I don't think it would be so difficult,'' said Rep. Ari Abraham Porth, D-Coral Springs, who leads the delegation and filed the bill. "And that, I really believe, is unfortunate.''
    "Politics may derail inspector general proposal".

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