Florida GOP imploding
The Saint Petersburg Times editors: "Public stonewalling and secret deals. Kickbacks and hush money. Reckless spending and coverups. That is the emerging picture of the Republican Party of Florida. Only federal prosecutors and the IRS can conduct a vigorous investigation at the highest level, untainted by state politics. " "Public stonewalling and secret deals. Kickbacks and hush money. Reckless spending and coverups. That is the emerging picture of the Republican Party of Florida. Only federal prosecutors and the IRS can conduct a vigorous investigation at the highest level, untainted by state politics."
It gets better: "The Florida Republican Party's political crisis exploded Thursday, as former Chairman Jim Greer filed a lawsuit against the organization alleging it violated the terms of a secret severance agreement."
Greer's lawsuit came a day after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement launched an investigation into whether he fraudulently siphoned party money into a consulting company he owned.How serious is Greer about taking down the RPOF? This speaks volumes:
Greer's attorney, Damon Chase, said the Florida GOP wants to smear his client. The party requested the criminal investigation to avoid honoring the January severance contract that would have paid Greer consulting fees totaling $124,000, plus healthcare upon his departure earlier this year, Chase said.
Instead of settling this, they are fighting,'' Damon said. >u>"Get out your Shakespeare books because everybody is dying.''"Ex-Florida GOP leader Jim Greer sues party".
Paul Flemming notes a little hypocrisy in the RPOF outrage over the FAMU kerfuffle in comparison to the RPOF money scandal:
"Due to lack of adequate documentation for certain cash disbursements, we were unable to form an opinion regarding the amounts recorded as expenses in the accompanying combined statement of revenue, expenses and changes in net assets," according to Thomson Bock Luger & Co.'s audit of RPOF released Wednesday. ..."Checking the audit, awaiting the outrage". See also "Audit: Florida GOP ex-Chairman Jim Greer had secret contract; state investigates".
On the day Chairman Jim Greer was run off in January, amid questions of financial shenanigans, a Shred-it mobile document-destruction truck was parked outside RPOF headquarters in Tallahassee.
William March points out that "The lawsuit was filed in Seminole County." "Ex-GOP boss Greer under scrutiny, sues state party". Curious that.
To replace Wexler ...
George Bennett: "For South Florida voters who sent liberal Democrat Robert Wexler to Washington seven times, this month's special congressional election offers a chance to stay the Democratic course or deliver an upset even more improbable than Republican Scott Brown's January win in a Massachusetts special Senate election."
America's first U.S. House race of 2010 pits Wexler's chosen successor, Democratic state Sen. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, against Republican Ed Lynch and no-party candidate Jim McCormick."April 13 special election to replace Wexler a referendum on Obama?".
Early voting begins Monday and the general election is April 13 in a heavily Democratic District 19, which includes parts of Palm Beach and Broward counties. Wexler left the $174,000-a-year job in January to head a Middle East think tank.
Deutch isn't known for the "fire-breathing liberal" style of Wexler, but promises a similar voting record.
He supports the sweeping health-care legislation approved last month over unanimous Republican House and Senate opposition. He says he would have voted for the $787 billion economic stimulus bill and cap-and-trade limits on carbon emissions in the House last year. He supports immigration reform that includes a "path to citizenship" for many illegal immigrants. He's for "reasonable" gun control.
Lynch and McCormick are both running on fairly conservative platforms.
Lynch, who got 27.2 percent when he challenged Wexler in 2008, favors repealing the health-care law and starting over with elements such as limits on malpractice awards in lawsuits.
The Miami Herald editorial board: "President Obama's expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling in Florida may be good politics, but it's bad policy. Whether opposition is based on environmental concerns or an economic wisdom that says dirty beaches are bad for the tourism industry, drilling -- until recently when the economy tanked -- has been very unpopular among Floridians." "Drilling plan: Good politics, bad policy".
"There was plenty of backlash Wednesday when President Barack Obama announced his plan to expand offshore oil drilling in Florida. Where it came from, however, is a stark illustration of how far the debate has shifted." "Opposition to drilling erodes".
Background: "Obama offshore drilling plan spares South Florida".
"There were a few jocular April Fool's Day references in today's four-hour budget debate on the House floor, but members wound up tricking themselves with a couple of embarrassingly big numbers." "House votes for pay cuts: $67.2B budget includes measure to abolish retirees' subsidies". See also "Senate OKs Florida Retirement System contributions" and "2010 Legislature summary".
"Major changes in Florida's Medicaid program, including a first step toward using private insurers through a voucher system, are part of a nearly $70 billion budget bill and related legislation passed by the Senate on Wednesday." "Florida Senate passes nearly $70 billion budget". See also "Florida House budget cuts aid to education, hikes tuition", "Fla. Senate passes nearly $68.6 billion state budget", "Florida Senate budget banks on gambling, stimulus money" and "Budget action sets up fight over health care, schools, roads".
Steve Bousquet: "Florida House approves budget plan on party-line vote".
Teacher bashing has its negatives
"Florida, viewed by many experts as a strong contender, fell short in its bid in part because its "impressive" reform plans had little buy-in -- and plenty of outright opposition -- from teachers unions".
"Florida has a hill to climb to win support from its teachers, or at least to demonstrate the support among teachers for its reform agenda," stated the federal government's review of Florida's rejected grant application.Notwithstanding this admonition, Florida's Education Commissioner Eric Smith
Despite that message, state Education Commissioner Eric Smith said the merit-pay plan working its way through the Legislature could improve Florida's chance of receiving the federal grant because all districts would be required to participate -- not just those that could work out agreements with unions.
The U.S. Department of Education wants teacher reviews tied to students' academic growth, and wants that information used for promotion, pay and retention decisions. But it also wants the "broad stakeholder support" from teachers that Duncan stressed."Florida GOP bucks teachers unions, will go ahead with merit pay".
In Florida there is virtually none.
That can be tied to the distrust and outright feud between Florida Republican leaders and teacher unions that has developed during the past 20 years.
The teachers unions have routinely supported Democrats, including Democratic candidates for governor. Republican former Gov. Jeb Bush was fervent in his opposition to teachers unions and remains a major force in Tallahassee. His Foundation for Florida's Future is a big backer of the merit-pay plan that would take away much of the teachers unions' power to negotiate teacher pay and benefits.
Education Commissioner Smith conceded that lack of union support over merit pay is a "big problem" and said he would try to earn it.
But school-board members and union officials complain that Smith and state officials have been unwilling to consider their concerns about the Race to the Top education-reform plan. They complain, too, that they were blindsided by the Legislature's merit-pay plan, which seemed to come out of nowhere with no input from school boards and teachers working on the front lines of education.
"I've never seen teachers as angry as they are right now," said Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association.
Ford, who called the state's Race to the Top application "fatally flawed," said he remains willing to negotiate but thinks the Florida Department of Education has a "take-it-or-leave" attitude and wants to create a "great school board in Tallahassee."
School boards have complained as well that the Department of Education seems intent on taking control of local districts.
This is not cool: "Legislators receive threats over education reform bills" ("Legislative assistant Celeste Camm said the staff discovered a 'menacing' voice mail this week.").
"Obama’s April trip to Miami Beach to be hosted by Gloria and Emilio Estefan".
And you, Dr. Cassell, are free to move elsewhere ...
"A doctor who considers the national health-care overhaul to be bad medicine for the country posted a sign on his office door telling patients who voted for President Barack Obama to seek care 'elsewhere.'"
"I'm not turning anybody away — that would be unethical," Dr. Jack Cassell, 56, a Mount Dora urologist and a registered Republican opposed to the health plan, told the Orlando Sentinel on Thursday. "But if they read the sign and turn the other way, so be it.""Mount Dora doctor tells Obama supporters: Go elsewhere".
The sign reads: "If you voted for Obama … seek urologic care elsewhere. Changes to your healthcare begin right now, not in four years." ...
Cassell may be walking a thin line between his right to free speech and his professional obligation, said William Allen, professor of bioethics, law and medical professionalism at the University of Florida's College of Medicine.
"So you'd think"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Florida has been one of the hardest-hit states in the housing crisis. So you'd think — you'd hope — that state and local officials here would make the best of government aid meant to help new home buyers and neighborhoods slammed by foreclosures."
Can you sense the outcome? By last month Florida had committed to spend just 12 percent of a $91 million allotment of federal housing stabilization funds that began rolling in a year ago, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Those dismal totals left it among the slowest states in putting to work their federal dollars in the program, which has a September deadline."Florida governments have dawdled on housing aid".
By contrast, a couple of the other worst-walloped states, California and Nevada, had committed 43 percent and 52 percent of their funds, respectively.