"Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday signed a controversial overhaul of the election laws that Republicans say is needed to prevent voter fraud and Democrats call a cynical act of partisanship to improve GOP chances in Florida next year."
Scott signed the bill without comment. Critics of the legislation assailed him for endorsing "voter suppression" tactics aimed at making it tougher for President Barack Obama to capture Florida's prized 29 electoral votes in 2012.Secretary of State Kurt Browning promptly inserted his nose into Ricky's derrière:
"I want people to vote, but I also want to make sure there's no fraud involved in elections," Scott said earlier. "All of us as individuals that vote want to make sure that our elections are fair and honest."
But some supervisors who run elections in Florida say the state's voter registration database is highly reliable. A statement from their statewide association warns Scott that the changes could cause chaos and confusion at the polls next year.
. He broke weeks of silence Thursday about an hour after his boss, Scott, signed the legislation."It's now tougher to vote" (ellipsis original).
"I know bad election law when I see it," Browning said. "I don't think this bill is bad for Florida. ... It doesn't negatively impact Florida voters."
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Not surprisingly, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law on Thursday pernicious election changes designed to benefit Republicans and suppress voting by minorities, college students and low-wage workers. It is a blatant partisan effort to make it harder to register to vote and cast ballots, and it is up to the U.S. Department of Justice and the courts to stand up to this assault on democracy."
Republicans took aim at Florida's popular early voting process because it has favored Democrats and was utilized by African-Americans in 2008 as Barack Obama won Florida and the presidency. The other form of early voting, absentee ballots, which heavily favors Republicans, was untouched by the new law. "Assault on democracy".
In another craven move by Republicans, voters who change their residences a lot such as renters, college students and the poor will now to be handed provisional ballots at the polls, which may or may not be counted. For the last 40 years, Floridians who moved out of the county of their registration had the convenience of changing their address at the polls, and with the state's new voter database, there's no chance of someone voting twice. But the rules were tightened to disadvantage Democratic voters.
The new law also suppresses voting by threatening groups that conduct voter registration drives. ...
It's no shock that Scott failed to stand up to Republican legislators and veto this assault on the constitutional right to vote. It is disappointing that Secretary of State Kurt Browning, the former Pasco elections supervisor once known for his integrity and independence, is sacrificing his own reputation to defend the indefensible for his new boss.
See also "Scott OKs voting law change" and "Gov. Rick Scott signs controversial elections overhaul into law" ("Democrats and voter-registration groups are now likely to take their case to the federal government or the courts.")
GOP wingnuts embarrass themselves in Jax
"Republican leaders said over and over in recent weeks that a race for mayor of Jacksonville amounted to the first big Florida fight in the 2012 presidential race."
"The liberal organizers who want to keep the American people enslaved by wasteful spending and hideous deficits need to know that they have jumped the gun on 2012 and have awakened a sleeping giant," Duval County Republican chairman Lenny Curry declared this month before handing a $50,000 check to Republican mayoral candidate Mike Hogan. "We're going to send a message that Florida is red.""Republicans better hope Curry is wrong about the race being a harbinger, because an African-American Democrat named Alvin Brown this week was elected mayor of Florida's largest county. Across Florida and the country, stunned Republicans are struggling to understand the narrow upset in conservative northeast Florida."
"Jacksonville has always been a conservative stronghold for Republicans, and we're going to have to really study what happened in this race," said Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, a U.S. Senate candidate who had expected Hogan to win handily."In Jacksonville mayoral loss, lessons for Florida GOP".
See also "Jacksonville Mayor-elect Alvin Brown celebrates, begins transition with John Peyton".
Nice dinner a must
"State investigators have found no evidence that Carol Wehle used her position as executive director of the South Florida Water Management District to help her boyfriend land a $120,000-a-year job as the district's engineering auditor." "State finds no fault in hiring of water district chief's boyfriend".
"As governments across Florida trim their employee ranks, Hillsborough County is introducing a change that is sending waves of anxiety through its workforce. County government employees were told this week that some of them will soon be forced to reapply for their jobs and compete against outside applicants." "County workers must reapply for jobs". Meanwhile, just down the road: "Orange leaders spend $52,000 on office renovations".
Race to the bottom
"First, Florida Gov. Rick Scott congratulates Texas Gov. Rick Perry on his state's top ranking for being business friendly. Then, Scott issues a challenge to his fellow Republican in a letter Thursday. Scott wrote: 'Florida will not settle for third place.'" "Rick Scott challenges Texas' top ranking in business environment". See also "Gov. Scott issues challenge to Texas governor ".
"The same people who always get it"
"Escambia County Commissioner Marie Young on Thursday asked fellow commissioners why $4.38 million in BP grant money is proposed to go to 'the same people who always get it.'" "BP money slated for 'the same people who always get it"".
Empty suits stride world stage
"Two Florida Republicans in Congress are calling out the White House, urging the Obama administration to get cracking on submitting free-trade agreements to Colombia and Panama." "Connie Mack, David Rivera Attack White House for Stalling on Latin American Free-Trade Deals".
Chamber suckles public tit
"Cozy arrangement with South Lake Chamber not in Clermont's best interests ".
Randolph gets last laugh
"Gregory Campbell, the son of Democratic state Rep. Daphne Campbell, has been snared in a $299,000 Medicaid scheme, accused of fraudulently billing the agency for clients he didn't provide any services for. The charges include grand theft, organized fraud and Medicaid fraud, all first-degree felonies."
"During this year's legislative session, [Rep. Daphne Campbell] infuriated fellow Democrats with her support of bills that put further restrictions on abortion. The anger erupted on the House floor when she and Rep. Scott Randolph of Orlando got into a skirmish, with Randolph promising to find someone to unseat her in 2012." "State lawmaker's son charged with Medicaid fraud".
Mica out of his league
"Mica critical of president's Israel stance".
Fat clowns stick together
Beth Kassab observes that "it's been a tough few years to be Ronald McDonald."
Some towns have banned his signature Happy Meals. Other cities have called attention to the fat, salt and calorie content of his menu items. The latest assault came this week when a group of health professionals called for McDonald's to end Ronald's run as the face of the fast-food giant."Can't a clown get a break?"
He was even lambasted at his own shareholder's meeting on Thursday by critics who claim he's hurting children with the sale of each French fry.
He can in the Florida Legislature."Happy Meals find haven in Florida".
Lawmakers passed a bill that shields restaurants from cities and counties that may try to control how a restaurant markets itself, meaning this state is now a safe haven for Happy Meals.
As Florida burns ...
"Florida Republican Congressman Cliff Stearns and Congressman Jim Matheson, D-Utah, want to know what the National Football League and the League's Players Association are doing to combat human growth hormones (HGH) in their sport. The pair teamed up to send a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Players Association Director DeMaurice Smith demanding an answer. The representatives also insisted that Congress should keep out over continued negotiations between NFL owners and players -- a boiling pot that threatens to impact the 2011-12 football season." "Cliff Stearns and Jim Matheson Want NFL to Crack Down on Steroids".
"Lawmakers put Scott in a fiscal box"
"While Gov. Rick Scott looks to trim the $69.7 billion state budget through line-item vetoes, lawmakers put him -- and Florida taxpayers -- in a fiscal box with one big-ticket item: SunRail." "SunRail Pushed Onto Rick Scott by GOP Lawmakers".
Life insurance practices under fire
"Insurance commissioners from across the country grilled executives from Nationwide and MetLife Thursday in Tallahassee on their life insurance business practices."
In particular, regulators pressed the companies to explain why they aggressively examine death records when seeking to stop annuity payments, but are less vigilant when it means they have to pay claims to beneficiaries. They also wanted to know why the companies take so long to hand over unclaimed benefits to states. "Regulators press Nationwide, MetLife on life insurance practices".
Florida insurance commissioner Kevin McCarty, president-elect of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, led the daylong hearing, which drew colleagues from more than a dozen states. The hearing was part of a national effort targeting multiple insurance companies.
Alexander blows top over 4 day work week
"Members of the citrus industry are begging Gov. Rick Scott to veto management shake-ups driven by one of their own, Sen. J.D. Alexander."
The Department of Citrus, founded in 1935 to promote the fruit, regulates the industry through a 12-member commission. Citrus growers fund the agency through a "box tax" on crops, so it runs without state dollars. ... "Citrus growers ask for veto of changes driven by their own Sen. J.D. Alexander".
The department's executive director would be subject to Senate confirmation. Also, limits would be imposed on the box tax. The tax on orange juice, for example, could not exceed 25 cents, which is its current rate. The current cap is 30 cents. ...
Alexander, who did not respond to a call for this story, over recent months has expressed frustration with the department, including its experiment with a four-day work week and adding to the box tax.