"Cut-throat re-carving of districts"
"Florida's redistricting battle is already littered with litigation. And before it culminates with new maps in March, lawmakers on both sides are poised for a charged battle over racial and ethnic divides, not to mention partisan control of the Florida Legislature and Congress."
The Democratic Party, relegated to a back-bench distraction in Tallahassee, threw its full-throated support behind Fair Districts last year in hopes of winning a chance to draw more-competitive seats. Republicans outnumber Democrats 81 to 39 in the Florida House and 28 to 12 in the Senate, even though registered Democrats outnumber GOP voters. Democrats failed to even field candidates in dozens of legislative races last year."Florida legislators gird for redistricting battles". See also "Redrawing the political map" ("Careers and party fortunes will be on the line as Florida embarks on a cut-throat re-carving of legislative and congressional districts.")
In addition, Florida will pick up two new congressional seats in 2012 — Republicans now control the delegation, 19 to 6 — and with the U.S. House narrowly divided, pressure will come from the national political parties to draw partisan-tilted districts.
Florida House and Senate leaders have already instructed their members to zip their lips during public hearings this summer. House Redistricting Committee Chairman Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, told lawmakers last month not to ask questions about their own districts during their statewide round of public hearings for fear of creating fodder for lawsuits.
Background: "Legislators set aside millions to defend redistricting", "Brave new world of do-it-yourself mapping" and "FairDistricts groups call upcoming redistricting hearings a 'charade'".
Be afraid ... very afraid
Gary Fineout: "In the next few weeks, Gov. Rick Scott will make a series of key decisions that could affect his sometimes tense relationship with the Legislature, his standing with political and business leaders, and ultimately his low public approval ratings. His moves could signal whether Scott intends to keep the damn-the-torpedoes, outsider style that has won him staunch support from many tea party activists or if the governor is willing to become more pragmatic." "Some key decisions ahead for Gov. Scott".
TeaBagger a Dem target
"Democrats have launched an aggressive campaign against West, believing they’ve got a potent weapon in their signature campaign against Republicans: his support for a controversial House budget plan that would remake Medicare. Future beneficiaries — those 55 and under — would get a government subsidy to purchase private health insurance."
The chances for Democrats may largely hinge on how the district is redrawn. It now has the seventh-highest number of seniors in the country and Democrats have already put up radio ads and robocalls excoriating West for the Medicare vote."Allen West makes waves, earns tea-party raves".
West’s two opponents: former West Palm Beach mayor and state legislator Lois Frankel and Patrick Murphy, a 28-year-old businessman, have begun raising money and campaigning.
Murphy, who switched from the GOP to the Democratic Party a few months ago, isn’t well-known. But he still has raised about $350,000 during the first quarter — $100,000 more than Frankel.
And though Frankel is the more seasoned candidate, her lengthy political tenure could provide fodder to the GOP.
She’s already suggesting that her line of attack will include West’s Medicare vote.
“He can’t just run on being a tea party star, a talk show star,” Frankel says. “He has to run on his real record — wanting to take away Medicare, not focusing on jobs. That’s his record."
On the backs of public employees and their families
"Almost all local governments will use their pension-saving windfall next year to fill budget holes." "Budgets to get pension savings".
"Concerns about the water supply are growing rampant"
"Florida is in the midst of an abnormally difficult drought. With the majority of the problems situated in South Florida, concerns about the water supply, tourism and what less water could mean for the environment are growing rampant there." "Water woes rampant in South Florida".
Florida employers abuse H-2B work visas
The Palm Beach Post editorial board publishes an outstanding editorial this morning: "When your business is importing foreign workers to take restaurant and catering jobs that you claim Americans won't do themselves, you and your country-club clients are bound to take some heat. But trying to hide online?"
After last week's Post analysis showed that WorkAway International, a Palm Beach Gardens company, was responsible for nearly one of every 100 foreigners brought into the United States on temporary H-2B work visas last year, the company quickly removed from its website a list of clients that prefer hiring foreigners to looking harder for local employees. Among them: BallenIsles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Gleneagles Country Club west of Delray Beach, The Club at Admirals Cove in Jupiter and Sailfish Point in Stuart."Businesses that use these foreign workers must pay them wages in line with industry standards, so what's the advantage?"
Restaurants and diners across the country manage to find local workers, most of them legal, but to hear WorkAway International's president tell it, few Americans deign to work at his clients' lush havens. With seeming sincerity, WorkAway's president, William Mayville, told The Post's John Lantigua: "You don't see Americans wanting to get into the (hospitality) industry."
To believe that, you would have to live in a rarefied world indeed. The more likely story is that Palm Beach County's resorts and country clubs have learned that importing foreign workers is cheaper, easier and more advantageous than searching for locals, even in a region with 10 percent unemployment.
Last year, the federal government gave 86,000 H-2B work visas to foreigners to come to the United States and work in temporary, low-skilled nonagricultural jobs. More than 1,500 were for Palm Beach County employers, according to The Post's analysis. That extraordinary figure - nearly 2 percent of all such visas nationwide - is even more striking considering the unemployment rate.
Plenty. Companies save money on health care and don't have to worry about employees asking for a raise or looking for higher-paying work. The visas don't let them switch jobs, subjecting them to the whim of the companies that brought them. Many of these earnest workers relish the chance to earn U.S. dollars, and some may have paid unscrupulous third-party "recruiters" in their home countries, so they are much more pliant than Americans who know their rights and are free to quit.Much more here: "Require employers to look harder for U.S. workers before being allowed to import".
Prison labor: Has it come to this?
"Misdemeanor work program saving county thousands".
"Student debt they can't handle"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Students at for-profit colleges are taking on debt they can't handle".
"Norman. How’s your revolution looking?"
Fred Grimm: "So this is how the cootchie pops. Norman Braman blows up county government and out of the smoke and wreckage emerges Uncle Luke, political powerbroker extraordinaire."
Luther Campbell, with a long and storied arrest record, supports a candidate under criminal investigation by federal prosecutors and IRS investigators for his curious $750,000 loan to a convicted Ponzi schemer."As craven as they wanna be".
Campbell, a Democrat whose sexually explicit, wildly misogynistic rap lyrics once earned him the denunciation of a Florida Republican governor and the fanatical pursuit of Broward’s Republican sheriff, embraces a Republican candidate to fill a mayoral vacancy engineered by Braman.
Hey, Norman. How’s your revolution looking lately?
Uncle Luke’s candidacy, according to an account in the Miami New Times, was originally concocted as a kind of snort by the editors of the alternative weekly, which features a stream-of-consciousness column by Campbell. They figured Uncle Luke could provide New Times with an off-beat, inside take on the political upheaval that began with the Braman-financed recall of Mayor Carlos Alvarez on March 15.
In the May 24 election to decide who’ll finish out the final months of Alvarez’s interrupted term, the joke candidate got 20,982 votes, a piddling total against the county’s 1.2 million registered voters, except most of those registered voters slept through the election. Campbell’s meager showing still amounted to 11 percent of the total cast, fourth place out of 11 candidates.
With 20,982 chips to barter, Uncle Luke quickly transformed himself into a sleazy, double-talking, political deal-maker of the usual kind, hardly distinguishable from low-down characters the Braman revolution was supposed to banish.
Campbell backtracked so suddenly on intimations he would throw his support to the second-place finisher that poor Carlos Gimenez must have suffered whiplash. Then he ran into the waiting arms of Julio Robaina, the Jeb Bush favorite, the former Hialeah mayor that Campbell had dubbed a “Hialeah overlord.”
At an NAACP candidates’ forum before the May 24 election, Campbell had accused this same Julio Robaina of paying two other black candidates to get into the race to dilute the black vote that rightfully belonged to Uncle Luke. "See, 'cause Mr. Robaina has a lot of money. He can buy off everybody up here but me."
In Ricky's pocket
Although Rick Scott has done nothing to create a single job, Zell Corporation employee Scott Maxwell is happy to proclaim that there is "good news for Scott" on the job front. Maxwell trumpets that
Jobs are coming back ... most of them without incentives."Rick Scott's 700,000 jobs: Where does the meter stand?" (bracketed text supplied; ellipsis original).
Numbers released just this past Friday say Florida has gained 76,800 jobs since January.
That's according to the state's Agency for Workforce Innovation.
Now, you can argue about whether Scott really had anything to do with jobs that came as early as his first day on the job ['ya think?]. But I think fair's fair [that'll make Mr. Zell happy]. If the jobs came during his tenure, we'll count them in the jobs meter. (Scott critics would certainly count them if they were jobs leaving.)
If we keep up this pace — about 15,300 new jobs a month — Florida will generate 1.3 million jobs during seven years.
That's better than economists said the blind monkey would do — but 400,000 fewer than Scott promised.
Kingsley's pool boy
Kingsley Guy: "Marco Rubio, Florida's junior senator, is one of the brightest stars in the GOP constellation, and he could end up as president someday. For the moment, however, he seems content to consolidate his base and broaden his appeal among independent voters." "Spending habits: Rubio's idea on rejected millions makes sense".
Haridopolis "achieves a kindergarten level of literacy"
Even the overly careful Miami Herald has feels compelled to publishing Nancy Argenziano's opinion piece about "those who have hijacked the Republican Party to use it for their own selfish gain". Among many things, she writes:
I will not defend the Republican Senate President who stridently squawks for smaller government yet has taken three government salaries, tax paid, ostensibly as a professor, not to teach, but to take three years to write a book on politics, achieving a kindergarten level of literacy of which the college only had one single copy of. I have sat next to this legislator in committees when serious discussion was taking place only to watch him write greeting and birthday cards to his constituents for political purposes, totally oblivious of the discussions going on.Read the lengthy piece here: "My fellow Republicans have trampled our principles". Background: "Argenziano yet again speaks truth to power".
Florida’s energy future hobbled
The Saint Petersburg Times editors: "Progress Energy's long-assumed strategy for providing power for the region hangs in the balance given the uncertain future of the Crystal River nuclear plant and the continued ambiguity about whether a proposed nuclear plant will be built in Levy County." "Doubts hobble Florida’s energy future".
"Florida regulators are doing their jobs"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Finally, Florida regulators are doing their jobs to protect the most vulnerable. The Agency for Health Care Administration seems to have stepped up the state’s enforcement of assisted-living facilities that care for elderly and disabled patients. As exposed in The Miami Herald’s yearlong investigation, Neglected to Death, AHCA has long been failing in its duty to protect the frail, ill and most vulnerable of Florida residents." "Get tougher on assisted-living facilities".
Sumthin' rotten in Evers-land
"A district official with the Florida Department of Transportation made a bad decision in 2009 when permits were granted to Bill Salter Advertising of Milton, giving the company permission to clear thousands of trees on state-owned land without having to mitigate the damage, said former department Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos."
It's the first time Kopelousos, who now works as Clay County Administrator, has commented publicly about the controversy since it started making headlines in the spring."Billboard brouhaha spotlights permit processes".
Sen. Greg Evers, a Republican from Baker who then chaired a House transportation committee, intervened with the department to help Salter.
Evers later appeared prominently on a billboard in Northwest Florida in a promotional campaign for the National Rifle Association when he was running for the state Senate. A longtime gun-rights champion, Evers said he was asked to appear in the ads by the National Rifle Association and that the billboard was not payback from Salter or a contribution in kind to his campaign.
Appeasing the Batista crowd
"U.S. Customs and Border Protection has denied Key West International Airport’s request to accommodate passenger air service to and from Cuba." "U.S. Customs: No Key West-Cuba flights for now".