Since 2002, daily Florida political news and commentary


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Welcome To Florida Politics

Thanks for visiting. On a semi-daily basis we scan Florida's major daily newspapers for significant Florida political news and punditry. We also review the editorial pages and political columnists/pundits for Florida political commentary. The papers we review include: the Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Naples News, Sarasota Herald Tribune, St Pete Times, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Tallahassee Democrat, and, occasionally, the Florida Times Union; we also review the political news blogs associated with these newspapers.

For each story, column, article or editorial we deem significant, we post at least the headline and link to the piece; the linked headline always appears in quotes. We quote the headline for two reasons: first, to allow researchers looking for the cited piece to find it (if the link has expired) by searching for the original title/headline via a commercial research service. Second, quotation of the original headline permits readers to appreciate the spin from the original piece, as opposed to our spin.

Not that we don't provide spin; we do, and plenty of it. Our perspective appears in post headlines, the subtitles within the post (in bold), and the excerpts from the linked stories we select to quote; we also occasionally provide other links and commentary about certain stories. While our bias should be immediately apparent to any reader, we nevertheless attempt to link to every article, column or editorial about Florida politics in every major online Florida newspaper.


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The Blog for Sunday, June 26, 2011

Knuckle-dragging editors don't get that "constitution" stuff

    The alleged journalists on the Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board complain that, "in Florida, the legislative process works like this: The people elect the Legislature, the Legislature passes laws and then interest groups that don't like the laws passed by the Legislature sue to stop the laws from taking effect."

    The union haters whine that
    in the Sunshine State, the sore losers -- i.e., the people who can't accept that their side lost at the polls -- insist on trying to impose their will on the majority through the courts.

    Since lawmakers left Tallahassee last month, several groups have stomped off to the courts, hoping that judges will overrule some of the key decisions of the peoples' representatives. Whether you agree with those decisions or not -- and we don't agree with all of them -- this tendency to resort to the courts when your side loses isn't one of the more attractive -- or healthy -- features of Florida politics.

    There are instances when legislators overstep constitutional boundaries, but most of these lawsuits are driven by political disagreements, not constitutional principles.

    Public employee unions in Florida are leading the parade to the courthouse. Lawmakers took away their members' unique status as pension beneficiaries who contribute nothing to their pensions. Beginning in July, public employees will contribute 3 percent of their salaries to their retirement plans. Naturally, the teachers union and several other public employee unions are suing the trustees of the state retirement plan, including Gov. Rick Scott, claiming that the pension changes violate the Florida Constitution.

    Union leaders seem to believe that their members are constitutionally entitled to enjoy pension benefits far better than those available to most workers in the private sector.
    "Settle political spats with votes, not lawsuits".

    The editors of course overlook two things: (1) the right of Florida public employees to bargain is a fundamental constitutional right, and (2) pensions (to include FRS) are a mandatory subject of bargaining.

    With all due respect to the editors - who are obviously incapable of understanding the definition of a "constitutional principle" - the pending lawsuit by "public employee unions" over the Legislature's unilateral changes to the state retirement plan is indeed all about "constitutional principles".

    "Private business takeovers of public institutions"

    Fred Grimm: "On Friday, outside a Marriott Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach, demonstrators near the entrance indicated that not everyone’s thrilled by the private business takeovers of public institutions. They held signs demanding, 'Stop the War on Workers.'"

    If public workers felt left out of Florida’s first privatization conference, they weren’t out of the discussion. Cities and counties and state agencies were said to be leasing out government operations like hamburger franchises to cope with escalating worker pensions and health care costs, intransigent unions[*] and rigid civil service structures. A city official from a community that had privatized water and sewer utilities said it was worth it, now that the private contractor’s human resources director, rather than him, had to deal with the worker “who had come in drunk for the fourth time.”

    Much of the talk was about raising capital for major infrastructure projects. Private corporations, it was said, can cut years off the time it would take the government to finance and build big projects. The five-year I-595 project would have taken the state 20 years to build. And there was talk of how private companies were less risk adverse than public officials, cowed by their need to mollify the baying crowd.

    But not much was said about the potential corruption that dogs public-private deals, which was like describing war without mentioning that there might be casualties. ...

    Aside from the felons mucking up the works, the mad rush to privatize prisons, utilities, freeways, computer systems and chunks of public education has become so entangled with lobbyists and campaign contributions and donors to political slush funds that it’s tough to discern the sensible deals from low-down giveaways of public assets.
    "Privatization’s unspoken risk: Corruption".

    - - - - - - - - - -
    *Mr. Grimm has apparently forgotten, to the extent he ever knew, that Florida's public sector unions have a hard time being "intransigent". After all, when public employers and their unions reach impasse in negotiations, the public employer can unilaterally impose all its proposals on wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment. There is nothing any public employee union, "intransigent" or otherwise can do to stop it. See generally "Media poodles raise their paws in opposition to Florida union busting".

    Another RPOFer lookin' at a Castor run

    "Republican Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe is talking about challenging Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor for her congressional seat in 2012. Sharpe, who pushed hard for the high-speed rail line connecting Tampa to Orlando, said this week he wants to be able to participate in national discussions on deficit reduction and America's wars."

    Sharpe, a retired naval officer who worked on John McCain's presidential bid, is already floating a platform that could fly in Castor's heavily Democratic district.
    "Rep. Kathy Castor may face challenge from Mark Sharpe".

    "Coronation of new Miami City Manager"

    The Miami Herald's "Political scene": "Last week’s coronation of new Miami City Manager Johnny Martinez wasn’t all smooth sailing: Before casting a vote, Commissioner Frank Carollo blasted Martinez on issues ranging from finance to politics." "Political scene".

    "Insiders getting new roles"

    Bill Cotterell: "Steve MacNamara, who had been chief of staff for Senate President Mike Haridopolos, moves into the governor's office as Gov. Rick Scott's top aide. ... MacNamara will be replaced in the Senate office by Craig Meyer, who will remain Senate budget committee staff director, his current job."

    MacNamara will get $189,000 annually in his new job. That's more than Prendergast's $150,000 salary or the $175,000 MacNamara was paid by the Senate.
    "Two state Capitol insiders getting new roles".

    "Unholy alliances"

    Scott Maxwell: "The congressional districts that slice apart Central Florida look as if they were drawn by a blindfolded toddler. In reality, these districts were drawn with painstaking — and nefarious — precision."

    Why? Because Republican politicians don't want black Democrats in their districts. Nor do the liberals want rural conservatives. So the politicians form unholy alliances. And it works.

    The previous time the Florida Legislature drew new lines, not a single legislative or congressional incumbent in the entire state lost a bid for re-election.
    "Scott Maxwell: Florida's gerrymandered districts ensure re-election".

    Still waitin' on them 1.7 million jobs

    The Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy, an independent Tallahassee research group, reports that "the number of jobs in Florida increased modestly in May, a continuation of a trend that began late in 2010. But the state has a long way to go before it regains the 900,000-plus jobs it lost due to the Great Recession."

    Barring catastrophe, Florida will gain hundreds of thousands of jobs in coming years through natural growth as the economy strengthens.

    A governor's role in job creation is limited, despite claims of responsibility for achieving Florida's modest job growth so far this year.

    Although the Governor and legislative leaders insist that "government doesn't create jobs," they spend hundreds of millions of tax dollars each year, much of it going to large profitable corporations, hoping to create jobs.

    Many economists doubt that incentives for companies in the hopes of creating jobs actually work. The "net effect is to starve government of the resources it needs to finance the services it should be providing."
    "Behind Unemployment Numbers: Job Formation Continues Slowly". Here's the report. See also "Scott's job plan, so far".

    Recall that, even SunShine State News, acknowledges that economists predicted the creation of "1 million new jobs in the next seven years, even if Gov.-elect Rick Scott’s pro-growth legislative policies are not adopted. In campaign speeches, Scott had promised to add 700,000 jobs in seven years." "Florida Economic Forecasters Predict Steady Job Growth".

    So, as Scott Maxwell once explained, "for Scott to truly make his goal, Florida will need to have 1.7 million new jobs by 2018."
    That's right: 1.7 million. Even [Rick] Scott has been clear about that.

    Here's why: Back when Scott and Alex Sink were in the throes of a heated campaign, Florida economists released a report that said the state would rebound with more than 1 million new jobs during the next seven years — no matter who was in charge.

    Essentially, economists with the Economic Estimating Conference said that even if a blind monkey were running the state, tourism would rebound and the state would net an additional 1 million-plus jobs by 2018.

    Obviously, both Sink and Scott wanted voters to think they would make a better governor than a blind monkey would.

    So Scott made it clear that his 700,000 were in addition to the 1 million jobs we could expect with the monkey.

    "Rick Scott's 700,000 jobs".

    You can expect Ricky to be waffling on that 1.7 million jobs promise real soon.

    "Gaming interests see an opening"

    "Florida was once the state where casino blueprints went to die. Three times in one 16-year span, voters rejected the idea of Las Vegas-style casinos."

    So the pro-gaming forces regrouped and shifted strategy. A giant leap into Vegas territory was no longer the goal.

    Instead, the industry pushed for baby steps. Small-scale slots parlors came to horse and dog tracks — but only in South Florida. Poker rooms spread steadily — small-stakes games at first, then high stakes.

    Now that state leaders are once again debating whether to allow Vegas-style resort casinos, the cumulative effect of those previous baby steps is clear: South Florida voters have grown accustomed to, and tolerant of, gambling. And Florida is already a big-time gaming state, regardless of whether new resort casinos are built. These days, an assortment of prominent casino developers are vying for a piece of the action. An international casino giant purchased the waterfront Miami Herald building in Miami hoping to build a casino and hotel project, and other big players, including Wynn Resorts, are lobbying state lawmakers.

    In today’s sluggish economy, gaming interests see an opening for glamorous large-scale casinos that previously might have been shunned as too massive. Jobs — in particular, the jobs associated with upscale casino amenities such as restaurants, convention space, and hotel rooms — are a key selling point.

    Further emboldening the industry: growing public acceptance of Florida’s gaming identity, particularly in South Florida. Fifty percent of likely voters in Miami-Dade County said in a Bendixen & Amandi poll conducted last week that they support building additional casinos in Miami or Miami Beach. About 38 percent were opposed, the rest undecided. Male voters tended to be more pro-casino than female voters while white and Hispanic voters supported casinos far more than black voters.
    "Casino companies are betting on expanded gambling in Florida".

    "Vulnerability to corruption, coercion and fraud"

    "Once a minor factor, absentee ballots are now swaying local elections despite greater vulnerability to corruption, coercion and fraud." "Absentee ballots: Everyone’s doing it".

    From the "values" crowd

    Among the many components of the so-called "conservative governing philosophies of Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP-majority Legislature" is "the fifth budget in a row without an across-the-board raise for state workers." "Many new Florida laws reflect GOP philosophy".

    "Basic civics is a stretch for the-powers-that-be"

    Stephen Goldstein writes that, "Politically left, right or center: Every Florida voter needs to become 'a card-carrying member' of the American Civil Liberties Union and also support Fair Districts Florida. Both nonpartisan groups are defending your voting rights and the power of your vote. It's high time you did, too."

    If nothing else, we expect fair elections that honestly represent our individual and collective will, whether our candidate or position wins or not. That's ingrained in us as Americans. But apparently, basic civics is a stretch for the-powers-that-be in Tallahassee. They are doing everything they can to stay in power by disempowering you. So, give them a lesson in "people power" by standing up for your rights. Try it. You'll like it.

    1. Help the ACLU of Florida overturn (what critics call) a voter suppression law: ...

    2. Help Fair Districts Florida end gerrymandering: ....
    "Voting rights: Floridians must speak up for 'people power'".

    "A system close to producing fixed elections"

    The Orlando Sentinel editors: "The redistricting hearing held in Tallahassee last week was supposed to encourage Floridians."

    But we're not encouraged. We would be if the Republican-led forums seemed like sincere efforts to bring about fairer elections. But they're not and we're steamed. ...

    [I]nstead of conceding the need to fix a system that comes close to producing fixed elections — incumbents hardly ever lose — Sen. John Thrasher, a former state GOP chairman who holds sway over his caucus, made this ridiculous statement: "It's not because of district lines" drawn by Republicans that Republicans dominate Florida politics.

    Rather, Thrasher said last week, it's because Floridians want lower taxes and smaller government. Ah. This has nothing to do with the majority rigging districts. It's all about policy.

    We'd be encouraged if legislators actually engaged citizens at the hearings. If they seemed alive, even. But members of the panel have been ordered by their leaders not to speak with the public at the hearings.
    "Drawing fair districts".

    "Kill more. Kill them faster"

    Mike Thomas: "Support of the death penalty is almost a prerequisite to holding statewide office in Florida. Kill more. Kill them faster. But this political agenda is clashing ever more often with the constitutional requirement of due process. And so we are spending millions of dollars sentencing far more people to death than we can possibly kill. The result has been a growing glut of death-row inmates." Thomas explains here: "Casey Anthony case, others show Florida's death-penalty system is broken".

    Another fine Jebacy

    "Decline in minority enrollment alarms Florida's law schools".

    "Clueless governor"

    Myriam Marquez writes that "everyone’s scrambling to plug this hole created by a novice governor whose staff didn’t seem to have a clue ..." "When smart food policy meets a clueless governor".

    TeaBaggers "dear to the base of the GOP"

    "Beware, Florida Republicans: The tea party movement that swept you into office in 2010 could cost you the next election. That's the takeaway message from Republican pollster and consultant Alex Patton, who conducted a recent survey showing that, by a 2-1 ratio, registered Florida voters said the tea party movement did not represent their views."

    But there's a catch for Republicans: The tea party movement is dear to the base of the GOP. Last year it helped fuel the Republican takeover in the Florida Cabinet as well as the U.S. House.
    "Tea party losing punch".

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