Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.
Veto pressure builds
"In the midst of the most intense lobbying he has faced as governor, Charlie Crist faces a stark choice: sign a bill opposed by thousands of Florida teachers or veto it and alienate major forces in the business community and the Republican-led Legislature. ... Crist has cited multiple problems with Senate Bill 6 that point to a potential veto: It takes too much power away from local educators, offers vague guidance on how teachers will be evaluated and was pushed through the House and Senate with little input from the public." "More hints of a veto for tenure bill". More: "Crist lists more problems with SB 6 put still won't say whether he'll veto it", "Merit-pay mail swamps Crist's office" and "Crist: Political pressure on teacher-pay issue is most since he's been governor".
The The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Merit pay bill should be vetoed". Likewise, the reliably conservative Tampa Tribune editors joins the editorial board call to "Veto Senate Bill 6". They write that the proposed "mandate seemed based on lawmakers desire to poke the teachers' union in the eye, rather than to help schoolchildren. Teachers around the state - and not just union activists - are understandably angry and dispirited by the Legislature's disdainful treatment."
"[Volusia County] School Board to Crist: Veto merit-pay bill". See also "Crist getting an earful on teacher tenure bill". More: "Palm Beach County teachers focus on local issues for protests, but still oppose state's new law".
The RPOF base is pushing back: "Business Leaders to Crist: Back Teacher Performance Pay". See also "Bush calls Crist, asks him to sign SB 6".
Related: "Education bill a litmus test in Florida races" ("State candidates are being judged on their stance on the teacher pay bill.")
"Chances appear better this year for abortion limits, school prayer and school vouchers". See also "Crist's two recent appointees to the PSC under consideration today".
So much for the backlash
"Republican backlash over President Barack Obama's health care overhaul had little effect in the nation's first U.S. House race of 2010. Florida Democratic state Sen. Ted Deutch handily won Tuesday's special election to replace retiring Democratic U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler after his underdog GOP opponent attempted to make the contest a referendum on the massive health care bill. ... With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Deutch, an attorney, had 62 percent of the vote compared to 35 percent for Republican Ed Lynch." "Democrat wins Fla. US House special election". See also "Democrat wins Fla. US House special election". See also "FL-19: Democrat Deutch breezes to special election win" and "Republican concedes; Deutch keeps Wexler's South Florida House seat for Democrats".
Garcia takes another shot at Congress
"Former Miami-Dade Democratic party chief Joe Garcia resigned Tuesday from the Obama administration to jump into a hotly contested race for a congressional seat in Miami." "Garcia plans 2nd run for Congress".
Sink holds money lead
"Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum continues to close the financial gap with Alex Sink in Florida's gubernatorial race, but the Democratic chief financial officer still holds a large cash advantage."
McCollum brought in nearly $1.4 million in the first three months of 2010, the highest of any state office candidate. That leaves him with $3.8 million to spend. Over the same period, Sink brought in $1.1 million. She has a little more than $5 million in her campaign coffers."Sink keeps fundraising lead in gubernatorial race, but gap tightens".
Sink brushed off concerns that McCollum was cutting into her financial lead: "I'm still $1 million ahead of him in cash in the bank, and that's the number that really matters.''
"A Florida Senate committee offered a last-ditch handout to Florida's ailing dog tracks and jai-alai frontons Tuesday, passing a bill to give them a tax break to make it easier to compete with the growing gambling presence of the Seminole Tribe." "Florida Senate panel offers tax break to dog tracks, jai-alai frontons".
Crist takes it on the chin
"In a mix of healthcare politics and acrimony in the state Capitol, a Senate panel Tuesday unexpectedly rejected Gov. Charlie Crist's hand-picked chief to oversee the state's mammoth Medicaid program. The Health Regulation Committee's 4-3 vote against Tom Arnold's confirmation as secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration stood out because such rejections are exceedingly rare and the career bureaucrat had few enemies in the Capitol." "Senate panel rejects Gov. Crist's healthcare chief".
Business as usual
"Florida Republicans overcame a months-long streak of financial scandals by flexing their Rolodexes, grossing over $7 million from utilities, theme parks and other interests like U.S. Sugar in the first three months of this year."
The total -- nearly three times the $2.7 million Democrats raised -- comes despite a criminal investigation into past party chairman Jim Greer, who is facing state and possible federal probes into a secret fundraising deal he made with a company he created.More:
Republican Party of Florida Finance Director Allan Bense called the showing a "groundswell of support" for the party. But much of the cash comes from companies and major donors with big business pending before the Florida Legislature.
More than $1.4 million came from political committees bankrolled by Realtors, doctors, cruise ship operators, bankers, dentists and dozens of other politically active organizations peddling bills during the 60-day session that began March 2.
Senate President-designate Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, has collected $707,000 in campaign checks over the last 15 months even though he faces no Democratic opponent."GOP gets big bucks from interest groups".
House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon, R- Winter Park, is not far behind with $661,000 raised – including $400,000 in the last three months. Over $100,000 came from Tallahassee political organizations and lobbyists with business pending before the Legislature.
Cannon's Democratic challenger, Amy Mercado, has raised just over $22,000.
"Thrown into the hands of private, for-profit companies"
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Republican leaders say they need to plan for when the federal stimulus money fades and the reforms kick in. They seek to build on a 2006 project under Gov. Jeb Bush that shifted most Medicaid recipients in five counties from a fee-for-service model to HMOs or hospital-based provider networks. The providers receive a limited payment for each enrollee based on his or her general health. ... Some of the state's most vulnerable residents would be thrown into the hands of private, for-profit companies whose first inclination far too often is to deny services to hold down costs." "Misguided Medicaid proposals".
"Medicare fraud targeted in bill by South Florida congresspeople Klein and Ros-Lehtinen".
Tea for McCollum and Dockery
"Attorney General Bill McCollum and State Sen. Paula Dockery are getting some more competition in the race for the Republican nomination for governor. Conservative Naples businessman Rick Scott said he's jumping into the contest. The businessman made national headlines recently by opposing President Barack Obama's health care plans." "Naples businessman Rick Scott enters Fla. gubernatorial race". See also "FL-Gov: Tea Party Insurgent Complicates Matters For GOP".
"Evaporated into the legislative vapors"
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "Senate Bill 1598 and House Bill 1211 grew out of the work of the governor's Commission on Open Government Reform, which spent more than 18 months conducting hearings, listening to concerns and studying the issues. SB 1598, sponsored by Republican Sen. Paula Dockery, appears to be headed towards passage, but its companion bill in the House, sponsored by Republican Rep. Clay Ford, seems to have evaporated into the legislative vapors." "Our Opinion: Hope for Sunshine".
Them librul judges
Kelli "Stargel, a Lakeland Republican, pushed a measure Tuesday to make it harder for a pregnant teenager to get an abortion without parental consent. Her legislation, and a companion Senate bill, takes particular aim at state court judges, who grant minors waivers from parental notice 95 percent of the time under provisions in a 2005 law." "Bill will make it harder for Florida teens to get an abortion".
That's why they call 'em "country clubbers"
Scott Maxwell: "Toni Jennings has a message for GOP leaders who have been spending someone else's money on their luxury lifestyles: Stop it."
Stop doing it. Stop trying to justify it."GOP veterans say new guys are spoiling the party".
In general, stop tarnishing the reputation of a party she and other worked hard to build.
"Disappointment … that's the most polite word I can use," said the former state Senate president who helped wrest power from the Democrats in the 1990s. "We said we were going to be different. And there are days when I can't tell the difference. And that's a huge disappointment."
Jennings is not alone in her frustration. A growing number of respected Republicans say they are embarrassed by this new generation of leaders who seem to play fast and loose with other people's money.
"It makes people sick about politics," said Florida's Republican U.S. Sen. George LeMieux.
A new Rasmussen poll of Florida Republicans backs that up, with many in state the GOP thinking the Justice Department should investigate.
On the road
"Six months ago, Marco Rubio had to put up with pundits speculating about when he would drop his hopeless campaign for U.S. Senate and run instead for attorney general. On Tuesday, as Rubio launched a high profile bus tour through Central Florida, he fended off questions about running for president in 2012." "Rubio touts conservative perspective at Central Florida rallies".
"President Obama is expected to announce that he plans to revive part of the Constellation program, start a new heavy-rocket project and create a $40 million initiative to help Kennedy Space Center workers find jobs after the space shuttle retires." "Obama expected to save Orion, bolster jobs at Kennedy Space Center".
"Jeb!" wins another one
"A proposed constitutional amendment allowing state money to flow to religious organizations advanced in the House and Senate on Tuesday, an effort state teacher's union argues is a means to expanding private school vouchers. Tuesday's committee votes also represented another victory in absentia for former Gov. Jeb Bush, a champion of school vouchers, faith-based programs and privatizing functions of state government." "Bill asks voters to let state money go to religious agencies".
The right wing Sunshine News whines that "America's broadcast television networks brand the Tea Party movement as an insignificant assortment of cranks and reactionaries. Members are also portrayed -- when they're covered at all -- as tools for self-serving corporate interests and racists dragooned by the Republican Party." "Network Tea Party Coverage a 'Travesty'".
"A seemingly dead plan to put child services groups under more scrutiny could see a second life in the Florida Legislature. Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, is pressing forward with his bill calling for referendums to retain funding for children's boards that provide a range of long-term services, from early intervention and crisis services to at-risk families and children." "Senator revives children's boards vote".
Rubio halts road trip
"Marco Rubio cut short his Florida bus tour to return to Miami after learning his father's cancer has returned." "Rubio halts bus tour over ill dad". Background: "Rubio begins shortened bus tour as Crist releases ad against him".
Obama in the house
"President Barack Obama will cap a visit to the Kennedy Space Center this week with a pair of fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee, one of them at the home of pop stars Gloria and Emilio Estefan." "Obama to raise money for DNC in Florida this week". The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Space program needs lift from the president".