"The U.S. Department of Justice has approved the language of the "FairDistricts Florida" constitutional amendments designed to restrict political gerrymandering, freeing the Florida Legislature to begin its once-a-decade redrawing of congressional and legislative districts." "Department of Justice signs off on redistricting amendments".
Scott suppressing voting by racial and ethnic minorities
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Elections supervisors in five Florida counties are correct to refuse to implement the state's new deeply flawed election law until the Justice Department determines whether the changes affect minority voting standards."
Secretary of State Kurt Browning was improperly pushing Florida's 67 elections supervisors to adapt to the new rules immediately, so Collier County Supervisor of Elections Jennifer Edwards felt compelled to send a letter to Browning informing him of this constraint. The state should wait until these issues are resolved, or Florida may face an untenable bifurcated voting system, with five counties operating under one set of rules and the rest of the state another."Any fair reading of the statute would find that the law discriminates in a number of ways."
For instance, reducing early voting from two weeks to eight days reduces voting opportunities for people with inflexible jobs who tend to have difficulty getting to the polls during the work week. These are generally lower income residents who are also disproportionately minority. Browning says the reduced early voting days are offset by expanded hours of up to 12 hours per day. But the longer hours are only optional."Vote hurdles must not stand". See also "Election Supervisors Hesitant to Implement New State Law".
Another troublesome feature affects renters and people who move often, again impacting lower-income Floridians. Voters who moved out of the county of their registration will be given a provisional ballot, causing them inconvenience and hassle. Browning says he will direct that all provisional ballots filled out by people with a change of address are counted, but that's not good enough. These voters are singled out as a way to dissuade them from showing up at the polls.
Voter registration drives are made significantly harder with burdensome filings and steep fines for groups such as the League of Women Voters and other civic participation groups. The league has said it will end its voter registration efforts under these new conditions. ...
In an attempt to tilt the balance of the next election toward Republicans, Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature have designed ways to suppress voting by racial and ethnic minority voters. The Justice Department should protect voting rights by seeing through their tricks and calling it what it is: illegal.
"Fair voting districts for Florida"
Howard Troxler wants to "talk about fair voting districts for Florida." "'Fair districts' is only a beginning".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "A year ago, the Legislature cut $2 million, or 25 percent, from OPPAGA's budget. This year, the Legislature took away direct state money and made OPPAGA dependent on a discretionary account that the Legislature controls. So how aggressive might the agency be if assigned to examine something known to be a favorite of legislative leaders? Before Gov. Scott vetoed it, $400,000 had been included in the budget for OPPAGA to study a Supreme Court overhaul that was House Speaker Dean Cannon's priority." "Stop silencing the wonks".
"Florida's economic recovery takes hit"
"The prospects for Florida's economic recovery took a new hit Tuesday, with a widely followed housing index reporting yet another price drop. The national S&P Case-Shiller price index tumbled 4.2 percent from the first quarter, and was down 5.1 percent compared to its year-ago level. It was the eighth straight monthly decline." "Florida's Battered Home Market Hits Another Low". See also "Property values in Orange continue to slide".
Trying too hard
"Sarah Palin got more media attention, but South Florida Congressman Allen West also joined the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally during Memorial Day weekend." "Allen West joins Rolling Thunder biker ride".
Stephen Goldstein asks "Why did any Floridians vote for Rick Scott after learning that the company he headed paid the biggest Medicare/Medicaid fraud fine in history? Why did people believe the smears against John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War hero, but discount the truth about George W. Bush's evasion of military service?"
The answer: People act and think based upon their irrational preconceptions, which most don't even know they have, but which they will go to any lengths to defend. Self-delusion is our security-blanket. In a rapidly changing world, people want to escape from the barrage of ideas that daily threaten their comfort zone. Rather than face having to change their opinions and prejudices, they'll accept - and defend - the irrational."Self-delusion: Why do we pay attention to kooks?".
All responsible scientists say that global-warming is a fact - but there will always be someone who believes it's a lie and a Communist plot. Prove that there are no "death panels" in the Affordable Health Act - and people will still tell you Obama wants to kill grandma. The more outrageous a story, the more likely someone will readily believe and repeat it. Once confined to the headlines of supermarket tabloids, the wild and preposterous have now infected everything we call the media - and polite discourse.
"Scientifically, fiscally, and constitutionally unsound"
"People applying for welfare benefits must pay for drug testing under a bill Gov. Rick Scott signed into law today. If they pass, they'll be reimbursed for the cost of the test. If they don't, they won't receive temporary government assistance."
The law is expected to be quickly challenged. The Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union issued a release criticizing it and noting that a previous attempt to test welfare recipients for drugs in Michigan was ruled unconstitutional."Scott signs bill requiring drug test to receive welfare".
“The wasteful program created by this law subjects Floridians who are impacted by the economic downturn, as well as their families, to a humiliating search of their urine and body fluids without cause or even suspicion of drug abuse,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida. “Searching the bodily fluids of those in need of assistance is a scientifically, fiscally, and constitutionally unsound policy. Today, that unsound policy is Florida law.”
Florida was one of several states that took up the issue this year despite a similar Michigan law that was thrown off the books after a four-year legal battle. The 1999 law to randomly test welfare recipients was stopped after five weeks. An appeals court eventually ruled it unconstitutional.
The ACLU said it is looking into suing to challenge the law.
"Meddling, know-it-all Legislature"
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "The meddling, know-it-all Legislature passed a measure this session preventing local governments from limiting the use of fertilizers, a major source of water pollution. It was typical of a governing body that claims to be conservative but loves to dictate local decisions from Tallahassee. It is the same Big Government approach found in Washington." "Legislative fertilizer".
Florida's importance heading into 2012
Jeremy Wallace writes that "three White House aspirants' presence in Florida during the same week months before the state will even set a date for its primary vote underscores Florida's importance heading into the 2012 presidential election." "Republican Contenders Tout Value of Florida".
Wingnuts run wild in Florida
"National organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Bioethics Defense Fund, the National Rifle Association and Americans for Taxpayer Reform have been reaping the rewards from last fall's tidal wave of Republican election wins in state governments around the country that brought new conservative leaders."
Such groups fared well in Florida, where the GOP, already in control of the state Legislature, gained a supermajority last fall. The leadership also became more conservative, particularly in the Senate."Conservative groups score big this year in state legislatures".
"The most partisan legislation we saw pass here was what we saw [advancing] in other states," said, Rep. Rick Kriseman, policy chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. "If it wasn't identical, it was awfully similar."
Other examples of bills advanced around the country this year that either passed in Florida or came close to it:
•Two proposed constitutional amendments that will be on the 2012 ballot – one to counter "Obamacare" by prohibiting any law requiring the purchase of health care coverage, the other that would tie government spending to population growth and cost of living.
Each was supported by conservative groups – the legislative exchange council and Bioethics Defense Fund on health insurance, Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Tax Reform on the spending bill.
• Teacher tenure: Lawmakers reprised last year's bill vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist that phases out tenure for K-12 public school teachers. Signed by Gov. Rick Scott; similar anti-tenure legislation advanced this year in New Jersey, Idaho, Indiana and Nevada.
•Immigration law enforcement: Supported by ALEC, Arizon-style enforcement passed the Florida House but died after much altering by Senate.
"Here’s news that shouldn’t make Floridians smile: For the second year in a row, the Sunshine State has received an F for its efforts to help provide poor children with dental care." "Florida flunks in providing dental care for poor children".
"Nonjudicial foreclosure" state?
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Florida's foreclosure backlog of 310,770 cases has analysts questioning whether the state should drop the requirement that judges approve a lender's request to seize a home for nonpayment. The evidence, so far, is lacking."
Florida doesn't need to become a "nonjudicial foreclosure" state. Florida's problem is that the Legislature, supposedly concerned with the state's economy, did nothing to address the foreclosure crisis. Worse, legislators refused to extend last year's $6 million allocation that courts used to hire judges and staff to move cases. As that money runs out, the backlog once again will increase."Keep courts in the game".
"Condo Laws Ignite Court Battles"
"Florida Condo Laws Ignite New Court Battles".
"Rodney Dangerfield of Florida's fiscal structure"
"Rick Scott isn't the first governor to make a play for Florida's 124 trust funds. But he joins the state's most egregious abusers of them. It's one of the things this rookie outsider has in common with the 2011 Legislature. Trust funds are the Rodney Dangerfield of Florida's fiscal structure." "Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature: Tough Choices or Wrong Choices?".
Spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries
"Instead of giving $1 million to the nonprofit Brain Injury Association and another $2 million to other consultants, lawmakers agreed the $3 million should go to direct services to people with spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries. Because the services would be designed to keep people in their homes so they don't need costly residential care, the federal government will kick in $3.8 million in Medicaid funds. The $6.8 million will help the state serve about 260 people who are among the roughly 600 on a waiting list, said Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington." "Lawmakers persuaded to clear more direct path for aid".