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 Thursday, April 01, 2010

Sink needs to bring a knife to "a knife fight"

    Howard Troxler: "It would be better if the Democrats ran somebody for governor this year. It seems unsporting to let the probable Republican nominee, Bill McCollum, waltz into the job."
    The last Democrat who won a governor's race in Florida was Lawton Chiles over a rookie Jeb Bush in 1994 — 16 years ago! Despite Chiles' gigantic legacy and beloved memory, he did not win because he was a nice fellow, but because he knew how to get the most votes. Saint Lawton could throw a punch. He took a joy in beating Republicans that was pure FDR or, if you will, James Carville. The young Bush did not lose an ideological debate to Chiles; he lost a knife fight. ...

    If Alex Sink were going to run for governor, she would need to get out there and stick it to the Republicans. If McCollum sues over the health care bill, she ought to sue him. She ought to go nuclear against the Legislature on a daily basis, even cuss at it in person a little bit, no matter how nice she is. Good grief! If a Democrat running for state office can't run against this Legislature, then the Florida Democratic Party ought to disband and turn the opposition over to somebody who can.
    "MacKay, McBride, Davis … Sink?".


    "Alex Sink is no Nancy Pelosi"

    Joy-Ann Reid: "Alex Sink is no Nancy Pelosi. For starters, Sink is a proper, unobjectionable moderate, so much so that she appears almost without ideology. "

    As Florida's chief financial officer Sink has avoided the political hardball that has made U.S. House Speaker Pelosi a hero of the left (not to mention damned effective), and the cartoon villain of the right.

    Pelosi is from a safe, liberal district in San Francisco. Sink is running to govern a state that, after a brief respite in November 2008, can sometimes seem like Alabama with palm trees.

    Still, Sink could learn a few things from Pelosi about how powerful women lead, since at the moment, only one of the two is compelling significant numbers to follow.

    On paper, Sink is the perfect candidate. A woman already elected statewide, running less than two years after Florida Democrats went to war with their own party to try and make Hillary Clinton the Democratic nominee for president. The former bank executive has issued a "business plan'' for the state and is running a pragmatic, "no politics'' campaign.

    And yet, the latest Mason Dixon poll shows Sink running 15 points behind her likely Republican opponent, the "all politics'' attorney general of Florida, Bill McCollum, who is busy putting aside the boring business of being the state's top lawyer to pursue a Don Quixote-like quest to strip his fellow Floridians of newly won healthcare benefits. (One that nearly every legal expert says is a colossal waste of time, not to mention money Florida doesn't have.)
    Much more here: "Alex, meet Nancy".


    Tally update

    "2010 Legislature Summary".


    Budget blues

    The Tallahassee Democrat: "The Senate voted 36-0 on Wednesday to approve a $68.6 billion spending plan, setting up negotiations with the House, where leaders insist on spending $1 billion less." "Fla. Senate passes nearly $70 billion state budget; House is expected to OK its budget today". See also "House Hunkers Down for Thursday Budget Vote".

    "The Florida Senate approved a bipartisan, $69.5-billion budget Wednesday that relies on gambling and federal stimulus money to both cut taxes and grow government spending."

    The Senate spending plan, approved on a 36-0 vote, hinges on about $3 billion in federal stimulus money to fund the ever-expanding Medicaid health-care program for the poor and to increase classroom spending. Per-student funding for public education would increase by $39, to $6,905 per student.

    Next up: The House will vote on its budget Thursday – a more austere, $67.2 billion plan. Then, the Republican-led House and Senate will spend the final four weeks of the legislative session, which ends April 30, in a give-and-take to produce a spending plan that meets their constitutional requirement of producing a balanced budget.

    The biggest differences between the two chambers: The Senate relies on a yet-to-be-approved gambling deal with the Seminole tribe to provide $412 million and anticipates that $880 million in extra federal funding for Medicaid will be approved by Congress. The House budget includes neither windfall.
    "Florida Senate budget banks on gambling, stimulus money".

    "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. "
    The House also began debating its smaller $67.2 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, and will take a vote today. The two chambers then will have a month to work out their differences.

    The Senate budget bill (SB 2700) passed unanimously, but the chamber was divided over a provision directing state health care officials to seek a Medicaid rule waiver from the federal government that would allow for the voucher system. It also would let Florida require some Medicaid patients to pay for part of their health care costs for the first time.
    "Florida Senate passes nearly $70 billion budget". See also "Florida House set to vote on $67.2 billion state budget", "Florida Senate plan would privatize more of Medicaid, prisons", "Florida Senate Passes Budget, Medicaid Fix", "Fla. House voting on $67.2 billion budget bill" and "Senate pushes Medicaid reform" ("The Senate passed a budget that softens the blow for workers at state prisons but would impose sweeping Medicaid reform -- if the House agrees.")

    "Bowing to resistance from the Department of Corrections, Senate Republicans scaled back their prison privatization plans Wednesday. But the DOC is still directed to open the new 2,224-bed Blackwater River Correctional Facility as a privately operated facility by the GEO Group." "Prison Break".

    More: "Alexander compromises on filling private prison at expense of old state prisons", "Lawson brokers compromise on prison privatization plan" and "Senate leader gives up on prison closings, gives Fla. DOC extra cash".


    Big of 'em

    "Senate sets aside for panel to investigate wrongful convictions".


    Teacher-bashers on a roll

    "House lawmakers have been warned: Republican leaders do not want to see any amendments to the widely opposed 'teacher tenure' bill because they want to push it through to the governor's desk, Speaker Larry Cretul said Wednesday." "Widely opposed teacher-tenure bill is on fast track in Florida Legislature".


    Not so bright

    "Bright Futures Downsize Wins Full Senate OK".


    McCollum's folly

    Billy tries to explain himself: "Why I sued the feds on health care law".

    The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board gets the better of him: "Nearly 4 million uninsured Floridians, seniors facing the Medicare prescription drug doughnut hole and young adults who can remain on their parents' insurance policies longer are substantially better off now that health care reform is law. That hasn't stopped Attorney General Bill McCollum and 12 other state attorneys general from challenging it in court and wasting taxpayers' money."

    McCollum's lawsuit makes dubious claims about the new law's constitutionality, and it reads more like a political manifesto than a legal argument. This is more about the Republican's campaign for governor and rallying the party base than about sound constitutional reasoning.
    There's more:
    There are other elements of this misguided adventure that smell funny. McCollum hired Baker & Hostetler, a Washington firm where McCollum used to work, to represent the states. Two partners in the firm already were advocating against the reforms, and this looks like a way for an old friend to pay them to keep making the case. And despite suggestions by McCollum to the contrary, no other state has yet agreed to share the cost.

    The suit also was filed in federal court in Pensacola instead of in Tallahassee. By filing in Pensacola, the plaintiffs were certain to have the case heard by a judge appointed by a Republican president. Senior Judge Roger Vinson, who drew the case, was appointed by President Ronald Reagan. Had the suit been filed in Tallahassee, the plaintiffs could have been heard by Judge Robert Hinkle, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton.

    This looks like judge shopping and offers further evidence that the lawsuit is more about Republican Party politics than constitutional principles.
    "Health care lawsuit more about politics than Constitution".


    "From Delaware down to central Florida"

    "President Barack Obama's call Wednesday to expand offshore oil and gas drilling -- as close as 125 miles off Florida's coast -- angered environmentalists in the state and left some Florida Democrats looking to distance themselves from the plans. Under the proposal unveiled by Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, oil and gas exploration would be allowed in the eastern Gulf of Mexico 125 miles from Florida's west coast. On the Atlantic side, the Outer Continental Shelf from Delaware down to central Florida would be open to drilling, but only after studies that could take years." "Obama drilling plan spares South Florida". See also "Obama's drilling plan stuns Fla. environmentalists, encourages GOP" and "Drilling plan hits a nerve nationwide, locally".

    The Saint Petersburg Times editors: "President Barack Obama is willing to sacrifice Florida and other coastal states for a far-reaching energy bill. His call on Wednesday to vastly expand drilling for gas and oil off the Florida coast is an unreasonable concession in a bid to win congressional support for more responsible energy policies." "Obama's misstep on drilling".

    The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "It is reassuring the president has provided safeguards for vulnerable areas, particularly Florida's Gulf Coast, where drilling would be permitted no closer than 125 miles. ... Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, who has vigorously fought to protect Florida's beaches, was satisfied with the precautions." "President Obama wades offshore".

    The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Obama's proposal to expand offshore drilling nationally has environmentalists fretting about what it could do to the country's shorelines and wildlife, including Florida's. But because his proposal shouldn't bring drilling near Florida's coast, the state's beaches and the tourism industry that depends on them should do just fine. What's more, the president's plan actually should work to help knock down a separate proposal in the Legislature that could harm the state by permitting rigs just a few miles offshore." "President Obama’s offshore drilling proposal shouldn’t harm Florida".

    Related: "A weaker Florida gets drilling, a strong California does not". See also Mike Thomas: "Conserve — and drill? We must do both".


    DMS

    "The Florida Senate voted to break up the "embarrassing" Department of Management Services today, creating a new personnel agency and sending property-management functions to other state offices." "Fla. Senate votes to break up DMS".


    a/k/a a pay cut

    "Government employees would begin paying into the Florida Retirement System, under a bill approved Wednesday by the Florida Senate." "Senate OKs Florida Retirement System contributions".


    Using RPOF as "slush fund"

    "Crist's handpicked former GOP chairman is the subject of a criminal probe concerning a secret contract that funneled party money to a consulting company he owned, the party and the state's top law enforcement agency disclosed Wednesday."

    But the investigation of Jim Greer is complicated by the disclosure that Republican Party officials offered him a severance package at the time of his January departure to absolve him from any financial wrongdoing and pay him $124,000 to remain as a consultant for a year.

    The previously undisclosed severance documents, obtained first by the Herald/Times, were signed by top party officials, including current party Chairman John Thrasher and leading lawmakers who helped oust Greer amid intense concerns that he had been using the party coffers as a personal slush fund.
    "Former Florida GOP leader Jim Greer under criminal probe". See also "Audit: Ex-Fla. GOP chair Greer had secret contract; state investigates", "Former head of Florida Republican Party under criminal investigation", "Former RPOF Chair Jim Greer Under Criminal Investigation", "Former RPOF chair under investigation: Greer accused of scheme to skim political contributions" and "Ex-GOP boss Greer probed".

    More: "Here it is: the secret severance offered to Greer".


    McCollum's "blatantly political use of his office"

    Bill Cotterell: "In a blatantly political use of his office, we saw an attorney general put ambition ahead of his job last week."

    President Obama had just signed a big health care bill that polls indicate the state's constituents don't want. As 13 attorneys general asked a federal court to nullify it, the state's top elected legal officer meekly ignored an enormous financial burden on his constituents and waived the state's sovereignty.

    Did we mention that this guy wants to be governor? Fortunately, the current governor is unafraid of Washington, and a gutsy band of legislators — knowing they wouldn't succeed — took action anyway.

    April Fool! All of the above really happened. Just not around here.
    "Politics in an election year? It's shocking!".


    "Nearly half of all home loans are 'underwater'"

    The Miami Herald editorial board: "In Florida, the epicenter of the national mortgage crisis, government efforts to rescue the housing market have been a huge disappointment. As of January, only 21,111 borrowers in the state had been able to take advantage of the Obama administration's main lifeline for struggling homeowners, the Home Affordable Modification Program, even though nearly half of all home loans are 'underwater' -- the borrower owes more than the home is worth. In Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, only 7,532 were helped." "New lifeline for struggling homeowners".


    Good luck with that

    The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "The Florida Legislature is setting its sights on rubbing out some of the state's most outdated and nonsensical laws, like the requirement that sheriffs live close enough to the county seat to get there by horse, or rules that regulate telegraph services that don't even exist any more."

    While "The Repealer Project" is a fine effort to clean the state's books of the cobwebs of archaic irrelevance, it passes right over one of the state's most shameful laws, long since ripe for repeal: the 1977 ban on gay adoption.

    Florida remains the only state in the nation to prohibit gay men and lesbian women from adopting children — reprehensible not just for the pure ignorance and discrimination on which the ban is based, but also for its blatant hypocrisy. The state allows gay men and women to foster children, and history has shown the homes they provide are no less nurturing than straight couples' homes, and yet the ban prevents them from making their parenting bonds permanent.

    What does that mean in real terms? Thousands of foster children languishing in state care are deprived of the many loving homes that would open up if the ban were dumped.
    "Repeal ugly ban on gay adoption already".


    Whoop dee doo

    "Shula, wife like Crist in Florida US Senate race".


    Citizens bashing

    The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Imagine state government setting up a company to compete against private businesses. Suppose this government company begins selling products and services below cost, driving companies out of the market and leading to layoffs. Now, imagine the government business, realizing its prices are too low, decides to recoup losses by taxing private citizens and the few remaining businesses. How would any of this be good for consumers, taxpayers or businesses?"

    The example may seem farfetched, but it's exactly what's been happening in Florida, where state-sponsored Citizens Property Insurance Corp. is now the biggest homeowners insurer in the state, sets prices at predatory levels, pushes insurers out of the market and has inadequate financial reserves to pay policyholders should a hurricane hit.

    If a catastrophe does occur, Citizens, with the consent of the insurance ommissioner, can level taxes for any shortfalls upon the home, auto, boat and business insurance policies of all Floridians. Essentially, taxpayers are forced to subsidize a government enterprise that competes directly with private insurers and will ultimately force insurers to leave the market. Call it the public option.
    "Citizens not the best option for consumers".


    Census

    "What boycott? Close to 9 in 10 Hispanics say they intend to participate in the 2010 census, with immigrants more likely to say the government count is good for their community and that personal information will be kept confidential, according to a new poll." "Poll: Close to 9 in 10 Latinos to fill out census". Related: "On Census Day, Florida’s catching up".


    "Lagging"

    The Tallahassee Democrat editors: "The South as a region, and Florida in particular, are trailing behind most of the nation in setting basic standards and goals for renewable energy. The result is to keep away the world community of business and investment and the jobs therein. ... Why Florida, and the South really, persist in lagging behind is something that lawmakers better have a magical explanation for come election time, and on a personal note, for their children who will be moving to other states to find work." "Florida's lagging".


    'Glades

    "A Miami federal judge, saying he is out of patience regarding Everglades restoration, ordered the state to restart a reservoir project that could derail the controversial land purchase." "Ruling puts Big Sugar land buy in peril". See also "Judge orders restart of Everglades reservoir project and questions governor's massive land-buy plan" and "Everglades deal in jeopardy after judge's ruling".


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