"Attorney General Pam Bondi says it is too easy for felons to regain their civil rights in Florida and wants new restrictions, including a waiting period of up to five years before they can seek clemency."
Bondi’s proposal, set to be formally discussed at a March 9 Cabinet meeting, would reverse a major change that took place in April 2007 at the urging of former Gov. Charlie Crist, who said the civil rights restoration process in Florida was too cumbersome and cruel to many ex-offenders."Florida attorney general seeks restrictions on clemency". See also "Should Felons Be Allowed to Vote? GOP, Dems Duke It Out" and "New GOP attorney general aims to undo automatic restoration of felons' rights" ("a shocker for civil rights advocates").
Crist’s changes streamlined the restoration process to allow tens of thousands of felons to regain their right to vote, sit on a jury and obtain various state licenses without having to undergo a lengthy review and hearing process.
Non-violent criminals are eligible to get their rights restored without hearings if they have completed their sentences and pay restitution if required.
Violent criminals, sex offenders and others are still required to wait years before their petitions were considered. Bondi drew support from the rest of the all-Republican Board of Clemency: Gov. Rick Scott, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
RPOFers on verge of suing one of their own
"An intense last-ditch effort to save high-speed rail in Florida collapsed Thursday with Gov. Rick Scott rejecting the plan, and then angry lawmakers accused him of overstepping authority and threatened legal action."
The proposal to divert responsibility to a group of cities, including Tampa and Orlando, was presented to Scott’s office Wednesday. He saw nothing to change his mind — a stance critics attacked as politically motivated and profoundly stubborn."Gov. Rick Scott rejects high-speed rail deal". See also "Rail supporters consider lawsuit".
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson deemed it “one heck of a mistake.” U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, said she was “devastated” by the loss of potential jobs.
In Tallahassee, Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, said he hoped U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood would grant Florida more time before reallocating the $2.4 billion to other states so lawmakers can explore challenging the governor on constitutional grounds. The deadline had been today and LaHood’s office showed no sign of backing away from that.
“I believe that he exceeded his executive authority and in a very strong sense we have a Constitutional crisis on our hands,” Altman said. Senate Republican leader Andy Gardiner acknowledged there are concerns about the “parameters” of the governor’s use of his executive power. He did not reject the possibility that a fellow caucus member would have a legitimate basis for suing the Republican governor. Altman noted that the Legislature voted to accept the federal money and build high-speed rail in a special session.
“We have a law on the books,” he said, and quoted the portion of the Florida Constitution that reads: “The Governor shall take care that the laws of Florida are faithfully executed.”
Related: "Lawmakers angry that Scott's position on high-speed rail unchanged" and "Critics blast Rick Scott for not budging on high-speed train". Related: "Rail Fight Close to Finished".
Haridopolos ethics violation
"Senate President Mike Haridopolos should get a letter of admonition, but no fine, for financial disclosure violations, a panel of his colleagues recommended Thursday after he submitted a written apology."
Haridopolos failed to fully disclose his financial interests for five years - 2004 through 2008. He omitted information such as his earnings from teaching at the University of Florida and the names of his consulting firm's clients. He also misstated the values of a home and mortgage."[T]he Florida Democratic Party still labeled it a "whitewash" because Haridopolos was not fined."
Democratic Party officials earlier had demanded that Thrasher, a former Florida Republican Party chairman, and Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, recuse themselves because they have endorsed Haridopolos in the U.S. Senate race."Fla. Sen. panel calls for president's admonition".
Asked if he should have stepped down, Thrasher said, "Hell no. Absolutely not." He accused the Democratic Party of playing politics.
See also "Committee: Admonish Haridopolos" and "Senate President Mike Haridopolos admonished in ethics case, apologizes" ("the committee — whose members were all appointed by Haridopolos — said he didn't deserve a fine").
Over at dKos: "An article in the Miami Herald shows how the GOP is whitewashing serious ethics violations by Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos. They sweeping these violations under the rug to help Haridopolos in his bid to run for the U.S. Sentate against Democrat Bill Nelson. " "GOP Whitewash in Florida - With Poll".
Scott doesn't deny violation
PolitiFact: "The majority of the evidence and a legal expert side with Alexander in this argument about the sale of the state's two airplanes. Alexander said the sales were 'not proper,' and cited specific state statutes. Most germane is a statute that requires the governor to spend the money allocated for a specific purpose in the state budget. The governor's office offered no rebuttal, and as such, we see no evidence that Alexander's wrong. We rate his claim True." "Scott overstepped on sale of planes".
"Making Fredo Corleone look like Nathan Hale"
Daniel Ruth: "You can’t escape the nagging suspicion that if state Sens. Mike Haridopolos, R-Brave, Brave Sir Robin, and Greg Evers, R-Barney Fife, were ever taken prisoners of war they would give up the nuclear codes, the formula for Coca-Cola and the D-day invasion plans under the brutal duress of a noogie." "In Florida Legislature, profiles in jelly".
Redistricting "brawling is starting in the courts"
"After a hard-fought political campaign, voters approved two measures last fall that would change how Florida's congressional and legislative districts are drawn every decade."
Now, the real brawling is starting in the courts."About a month later, members of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida asked to join the case as defendants, claiming their interests weren't represented by the parties involved in the lawsuit. They were soon joined by members of the Florida State Conference of NAACP branches and Democracia Ahora, a Hispanic advocacy group. All the groups had worked toward the amendments' approval."
Two lawsuits filed in the wake of last November's election could determine the fate of the two amendments to Florida's constitution, which supporters say will help end gerrymandering, the process of tailoring districts to favor a particular party, incumbent or demographic group. ...
The day after voters approved the changes, two U.S. representative from opposite sides of the aisle challenged the constitutionality of the amendment dealing with congressional districts. U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, a Democratic, and Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican, asked a federal judge in South Florida to stop its enforcement, claiming it violates a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. That section prohibits any dilution to the ability of racial minorities to elect their preferred candidates.
In their court papers, members of the NAACP and Democracia Ahora called the plaintiffs "entrenched incumbent members of Congress" who wanted to take away the new protections against political gerrymandering. The two civil rights groups said the amendments offered extra protections for minority voters that previously was missing from the state constitution. The NAACP and Democracia Ahora also argued that their rights on this matter wouldn't be represented by newly elected Republican Gov. Rick Scott, nor his secretary of state, Kurt Browning.Much more here: "Lawsuits challenge Fla. redistricting changes".
Browning was a public leader opposing the amendments, and three days after Scott took office in January, the state quietly withdrew a request for federal approval, or "preclearance," that is required under the Voting Rights Act. The request was filed in December before then-Gov. Charlie Crist left office. The "preclearance" process vets any changes that could dilute the voting power of minorities. ...
The withdrawal of the request for approval from the U.S. Department of Justice "appeared calculated to delay and possibly thwart implementations of the amendments," the civil rights groups said.
So the civil rights groups, along with the League of Women Voters and five voters from Monroe County in the Florida Keys, filed another lawsuit ... They said the absence of a preclearance process will deprive them of their rights under the Voting Rights Act.
It could take months before the legal battles over the redistricting amendments are over. But Florida has some time. Redistricting plans don't have to be approved and implemented until June 2012, one of the latest deadlines in the nation.
Wingnut of the week
"The head of Florida's major business organization bluntly told legislators Thursday state employees should "have some skin in the game" with pension payments put into investment accounts — and consider themselves lucky to have jobs." "Associated Industries leader takes aim at state's pension plan".
"Bill cutting unemployment benefits to 20 weeks advances".
"Scott doesn't seem to get it"
Gary Stein: Rick Scott "doesn't seem to get it."
Scott's tone-deaf missteps — the pill mill database debacle and his creative, confusing math on the budget— have been well-chronicled."Gov. Rick Scott is losing Floridians' trust".
Sure, Scott has his fans. The tea party loves him, which is why he unveiled his budget in tea party-loving Eustis.
I know it's early. We may some day say Scott was one of Florida's great governors.
Will Scott at least become a decent governor that people support and have confidence in? If so, he's off to a lousy start.
He may not care. He spent $73 million of his family's money to barely get into the governor's mansion, and he surely has many millions under the sofa cushions.
But it will take more than his millions to make people actually believe in him.
"Republican U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent on Thursday backed off his call to use the $2.4 billion in federal high-speed rail funds rejected by Gov. Rick Scott to pay down the national debt. Instead, he shocked tea party activists by urging the money be sent to Tallahassee for other Florida transportation projects. Tea party activists across the state were quick to criticize Nugent’s comments, saying the Tea Party Caucus member had it right the first time." "Tea Party Turncoat? Rich Nugent Flops on Spending Rail Funds".
We're the "Oxy-tourism Capital"
"The reasons for Florida to implement the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program — despite Gov. Rick Scott's opposition — are painfully apparent." "'Welcome to the Oxy-tourism Capital'".
Florida dragging its knuckles on Health Care Reform
"Florida and 25 other states suing to stop President Barack Obama's health care overhaul say in a new legal filing that they should be allowed to stop following the law immediately. ... The Justice Department wants the judge to order the states to follow the law pending an appeal to a higher court." "Florida, 24 states want to stop implementing health reform now". Related: "Nurse Practitioners to Rally Across Florida".
"People with the historical perspective of a fruit fly would oppose high-speed rail"
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "High-speed rail in Florida, despite bipartisan support and millions of state and private dollars already invested in it, turned out to be surprisingly easy for Gov. Rick Scott to kill. All he had to say was no."
Scott's objection appears to extend beyond his fear of cost overruns and operating deficits. He seemed more interested in making a political statement than in giving serious consideration to a project that supporters said would create 24,000 jobs."High-speed rail proved fragile".
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "There will be no second coming for high-speed rail, because satisfying the tea party movement is more important to Gov. Rick Scott than regional collaboration and hard facts. Scott killed the project (again) Thursday, declaring that Florida would not accept $2.4 billion in federal money for the Tampa-to-Orlando line no matter how well the state would be financially protected. Logic and bipartisan support are no match for a stubborn ideologue." "Facts don't faze Scott's world".
Stephen Goldstein: "Only people with the historical perspective of a fruit fly would oppose the first leg of high-speed rail in Florida (between Tampa and Orlando) that would eventually link to Miami. That explains why Gov. Rick Scott and tea-party crackpots are against it, but not why Kingsley Guy can't see the light." "Gov. Scott's opposition to high speed rail is fruit fly thinking".
As for Kingsley Guy, he actually thinks that "Gov. Scott deserves credit for rejecting high-speed rail train wreck".
Raw political courage
"Legislators, Retailers Like Sales Tax Holiday".
Will Rivera of Miami survive three criminal investigations?
"Will freshman District 25 U.S. House member David Rivera of Miami survive three criminal investigations in Miami-Dade? What does he say about probes into his campaign disclosures and finances? Is it all just politics?" "Rep. David Rivera says his 'official conduct most transparent of any member of Congress'".
Mack on the trail
"Mack hosting town hall meeting in Fort Myers".
Gettin' rid of those silly gun permits
"Florida Ballot Initiative, a political action committee led by Jupiter’s Richard Antolinez, is seeking to gather enough signatures to place a constitutional amendment on the 2012 ballot that would dictate that 'no permit shall be required' to bear arms in Florida." "Political action committee wants to eliminate permits 'for any manner of bearing arms in Florida'".
"A proposed fetal personhood amendment, which would outlaw abortion and some forms of birth control, has been called radical and outrageous by pro-choice activists. But even staunchly anti-abortion organizations and legislators are expressing concerns with the initiative, which they fear could end up backfiring." "Florida Catholic Conference, Family Policy Council decline to endorse fetal personhood".
AIF and the Chamber drafts legislation
"The Florida House and Senate both are taking up major rewrites of the state's growth management laws, according to the key committee chairmen in each chamber. Gov. Rick Scott has proposed eliminating the Florida Department of Community Affairs and laying off most employees while moving its planning functions to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Meanwhile, a coalition of groups, including the Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, is drafting proposed law revisions." "Legislators pushing ahead with major rewrite of growth management laws".
Teabagger town halls
"The two town halls couldn’t have been any more different — one a blue-jeans-and-ball-cap affair, rowdy and filled-to-capacity near an impoverished urban strip — the other a smaller confab of polo-shirt-and-Bermuda-shorts clad seniors in a sleek conference room outside Orlando. But one sentiment resonated through both Rep. Allen West’s Pompano Beach gathering in south Florida and Rep. Dan Webster’s in Winter Garden: voters are still angry, they still don’t trust Washington, and they’re saying, 'hell yeah, shut down the government if you have to.'" "Town hall 'rage' over spending in Florida".
"Clearing a legal challenge, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority approved a $109 million contract for new Tri-Rail locomotives Friday." "$109 Million Tri-Rail Contract Awarded After Challenge".
Palm Beach GOPers on pins and needles
"Decision on presidential run coming soon, Gingrich tells PB County Republicans".
State employees win one
"A Senate committee proposed a modified bill Thursday that focuses more on shoring up the Florida Retirement System and less on using the savings to close the state budget gap."
Leaders of the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee pushed a compromise that would require most state workers to contribute up to 2 percent of their salaries to their retirement funds, while elected officials, senior management and anyone making more than $75,000 would pay 4 percent of their salary into the retirement system."Florida Senate committee modifies pension bill". See also "Second Pension Bill Could be Watered Down".
The measure by Sen. Jack Latvala, a St. Petersburg Republican, also removes a requirement that new employees in the Florida Retirement System enroll in 401(k) plans and activates employee contributions only to pay for any unfunded liability in the retirement fund. The committee will vote on the proposal during the first week of the legislative session in March. ...
The changes came after hours of testimony from police, firefighters, teachers and civil servants — and the fifth death in a month of a police officer gunned down in the line of duty.
Lucy Morgan: "White Gadsden County officials successfully conspired to remove or demote every black supervisor in county government, multiple lawsuits claim." "Gadsden County government embroiled in race plot scandal".
"Fear not, hungry, thirsty and gift-deprived lawmakers"
Scott Maxwell: "Florida is facing a fiscal crisis. There's talk of slashing everything from public safety to help for the disabled. So what burning issue are some of our legislators pushing?"
Gifts for themselves!"Scott Maxwell: Lawmakers really want freebies".
Specifically, they want more freebies.
After all, what's the point in being a "public servant" if you can't get free steak dinners and open bar tabs?
But fear not, hungry, thirsty and gift-deprived lawmakers. Here comes Senate Bill 1322 to the rescue.
Pill mill politics
"Lawmakers explore pros and cons of tracking pain pill prescriptions". See also "Drug database should be in use" and "House may fight pill mills with tighter controls over 'dispensing' docs".