"Florida Exceptionalism...that shining Waffle House on the hill"
An exceptional column by Frank Cerabino this morning: "The rest of America needs to accept the idea of Florida Exceptionalism."
For years, we've been entertained by American Exceptionalism, which essentially gives us sole permission to engage in gross acts of international misbehavior.
"GOP election rules don't apply to exceptional Florida".
And now we just have the domestic version of that: Florida Exceptionalism.
You just have to imagine that we're that shining Waffle House on the hill, a state that should be recognized as better than the rest .
Which state Republicans obviously do. Because once again, they're ignoring the primary calendar set by their own party to bump up the Florida primary to the end of January from its allotted spot in March.
Marco Rubio is Rush Limbaugh's man
"Rush Limbaugh posed an interesting question on his radio show last week: Why are so many establishment Republicans practically begging New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to get in the race but not Marco Rubio?"
"Rubio would win in a walkover," Limbaugh said. "He's conservative. He's articulate. He's great-looking. He's Hispanic and sounds very smart. How can he possibly lose? If this were the Democrat [sic] Party, the party father would probably tell Obama to step aside and let Rubio run, if Rubio were a Democrat. There are more Hispanic voters now than there are blacks, and Rubio's got more experience than Obama had when he decided to run. … They're not pushing Rubio because while they praise him, they don't think he has had enough experience yet. And Rubio is — sorry to say this, folks — another example of the RINOs being wrong.""Limbaugh: GOP should tout Rubio".
Teabaggers don't like being called "heartless"
George Bennett writes that "Conservative state Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, could live with Rick Perry's support for granting in-state tuition rates to the children of illegal immigrants in Texas."
But he couldn't stomach the way the Texas governor responded to critics of the policy during a recent Republican presidential debate in Orlando.
"Cain went on to score a blowout victory in a Sept. 24 straw poll of Florida GOP activists, thrusting what had been a second-tier candidacy into the national spotlight and highlighting the uncertainty of the Republican nominating contest in Florida and elsewhere."
To those who oppose the program, Perry said, "I don't think you have a heart."
"When he said 'you don't have a heart,' I leaned over to my wife and said, 'I think he just lost the election with those words,' " Plakon said. He said he came to the debate favoring Perry.
The next day, Plakon met with Herman Cain during the Republican Party of Florida's Presidency 5 conference and became the first Florida legislator to endorse the former Godfather's Pizza CEO for president.
A national Fox News poll released Wednesday showed Cain's support jumping from 6 percent in late August to 17 percent after the Florida straw poll. Perry fell from front-runner status at 29 percent in Fox's previous poll to 19 percent in the new survey, while support for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney remained essentially unchanged at 23 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, at 11 percent, was the only other GOP candidate to attract double-digit support.
Much more here: "Herman Cain's surge, Rick Perry's slide reflect Florida GOP free-for-all".
In Florida, Republican firm War Room Logistics released a poll Saturday showing Cain's support exploding from 5 percent before the straw poll to 24 percent afterward, while Perry plummeted from 25 percent to 9 percent. Romney inched upward from 25 percent to 28 percent. ...
With Florida expected to play a critical, early and expensive role in the Republican nominating process, Perry and Romney have assembled professional campaign operations and fundraising teams in the state and lined up high-profile endorsements from Florida elected officials.
Cain has no formal Florida organization. In addition to Plakon, he has been endorsed by state Rep. Larry Ahern, R-St. Petersburg.
"It's probably just a coincidence ..."
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "A circuit judge's clear-cut ruling in Tallahassee on Friday that Florida's massive plan to privatize state prisons is unconstitutional sent another powerful message to Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-controlled Legislature. They are not above the law, and they are going to lose in court when they exceed the constitutional restraints on their authority."
Scott and influential legislators such as Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander of Lake Wales were determined to pursue one of the nation's largest privatization efforts no matter what. In the Senate, Alexander quietly stuck language into the budget to privatize prisons — to the surprise of the chairman of the committee that oversees criminal justice spending, Sen. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey. And Scott fired his Department of Corrections secretary after he questioned the wisdom of the privatization effort and supported the lawsuit filed by the union that represents state prison guards. It's probably just a coincidence that the Boca Raton company expected to win the new prison contract, GEO Group, had 16 lobbyists in Tallahassee, donated $25,000 to Scott's inaugural celebration and once employed Scott's key outside budget adviser. ...
"Prisons overreach corrected by court".
The abuse of power in Tallahassee illustrates why a nonpartisan, independent judiciary is so important. When the legislative and executive branches of government act so arrogantly and with so little respect for the rule of law, it is left to the courts to set things right.
The Miami Herald to the rescue
To Miami Herald works hard to help Marco Rubio have a nice, soft landing on the national stage.
"Days before Univision aired a controversial story this summer about the decades-old drug bust of Marco Rubio’s brother-in-law, top staff with the Spanish-language media powerhouse offered what sounded like a deal to the U.S. senator’s staff."
If Rubio appeared on Al Punto —Univision’s national television show where the topic of immigration would likely be discussed — then the story of his brother-in-law’s troubles would be softened or might not run at all, according to Univision insiders and the Republican senator’s staff. They say the offer was made by Univision’s president of news, Isaac Lee.
"The conflict provides a rarely seen view of a politician warring with the press, and it also underscores the highly charged issue of immigration in the Hispanic community."
But Lee said in an email to The Miami Herald that any insinuation that he offered a quid pro quo was “incorrect” and “defamatory.”
In a written statement Friday, Lee said: “With respect to Senator Rubio, Univision covered the story in the same objective, fair manner we cover every significant story. Univision did not offer to soften or spike a story...we would not make such an offer to any other subject of a news story and did not offer it in this case.”
Rubio never appeared on Al Punto, a national political affairs program broadcast on Sundays. Univision aired the story about Rubio’s brother-in-law, a lower-level player in a 1987 coke-and-pot ring, on July 11.
Al Punto’s host, Jorge Ramos, is one of Univision’s most-recognized personalities and has advocated for the so-called “DREAM Act,” which Rubio has opposed on the grounds that it gives “amnesty” to illegal immigrants. The long-debated proposal would allow certain children of undocumented immigrants to become legalized U.S. residents.
"The inside story: Univision’s war with Rubio over immigration, drug report".
Univision, headquartered in Doral, is a top-rated network, reaching 95 percent of the 13.3 million Hispanic households in the United States. Its ratings are tops in prime-time in such cities as Los Angeles, San Antonio and Miami — regardless of language. It recently created an investigative team.
Oh dear, what's a GOPer to do?
Two Florida presidential polls came out last week:
A Sept. 24-27 Survey USA found Mitt Romney leading among Republicans with 27 percent support, just ahead of Herman Cain with 25 percent support and Rick Perry in third place with 13 percent.
"Polls show mixed Republican leaders".
A Sept. 22-25 poll by Public Policy Polling (some people polled before the last GOP debate in Orlando) found Romney leading with 30 percent, followed by Perry with 24 percent and Newt Gingrich with 10 percent.
"Disappointing lack of interest among Scott, Bondi and Atwater"
The Saint Petersburg Times editors: "Charging a fortune for public records is a clear attempt to evade Florida's sunshine laws and conceal public business from public view. That seems to be the motivation behind an invoice sent to state Sen. Mike Fasano for more than $10,000 for public records from Ash Williams, executive director of the state agency that manages $145 billion in Florida pension and other public funds."
Williams has repeatedly resisted public records requests over a questionable hedge fund investment, and this whopping invoice to the New Port Richey Republican is another attempt to avoid public scrutiny. The Legislature should not sit still for this, and Williams' bosses — Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater — have to choose between supporting him or the public's right to know. ...
"Huge bill erects wall of secrecy".
Just as disappointing as Williams' evasion of the law is the lack of interest among Scott, Bondi and Atwater. They should demanding that Williams comply with Fasano's request for public documents and follow the public records laws, not acquiescing to his secrecy.
Teabaggers can't find prohibition against polluting in the Constitution
"A federal judge has ruled that water coming from state-operated Stormwater Treatment Areas, and running south into the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, has been exceeding pollution limits designed to protect the Florida Everglades." "Federal judge rules for cleaner water in the Everglades".
GOPers playing politics with judicial vacancies
The Miami Herald editors: "During September, the Senate confirmed a grand total of three federal judges — leaving 95 vacancies in courthouses around the country. This means that there are simply not enough federal judges to handle the judicial workload, resulting in justice delayed in both criminal and civil cases. In 35 of those instances, including two district seats in the Southern District of Florida, the courts have declared a judicial emergency, meaning the dockets are overloaded to the breaking point. According to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, this is a historically high level of vacancies, and the prolonged slowness in filling the empty seats makes the Obama presidency the longest period of high vacancy rates in the federal judiciary in 35 years." "The other federal crisis".
"Overworked and underpaid"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board applauds Florida's new Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins because he "recognizes that children's lives rest in the hands of overworked and underpaid investigators."
As if they'd just returned from a labor day picnic, the editors point out that
Entry-level investigators — who check out allegations of abuse, abandonment, neglect and/or exploitation of children and often work nights and weekends — earn $34,829.34. Wilkins wants to hike that to $39,300. That would still trail states such as Illinois ($49,620) or New Jersey ($47,937). Yet, the bump should help draw better-credentialed applicants.
"With DCF, high stakes warrant higher pay".
Wilkins also is wisely exploring a career path for investigators sweetened with raises. Incredibly, they are stuck at their starting salary regardless of performance or tenure. Talk about a ridiculous disincentive. No wonder turnover is so high.
Given the high stakes, it's high time that DCF put a higher priority on the people who make life-and-death decisions for the state's most vulnerable citizens.
Perhaps the editors will turn their attention to Florida state troopers who start at $33,977.04 annually (although it is unclear whether that figure includes the recent 3% pay cut because they are FRS participants (and BTW troopers like all state employees haven't had a raise in years)). Troopers, like DCF investigators work nights and weekends, and make life-and-death decisions for the state's most vulnerable citizens; they of course have the added "benefit" of risking their lives every day.
The same is true of Florida's low paid Forestry Firefighters, who combat forest and wildland fires, and just recently lost a pair of state firefighters, who died battling a wildfire in north Florida. See also "Low pay hurting state's forestry division".
We agree with the editors that, given the high stakes, it's high time the state put a higher priority on these firefighter and law enforcement officers who make life-and-death decisions for the state's most vulnerable citizens; we look forward to The Orlando Sentinel editors standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the IAFF and the PBA as these unions negotiate with the state to improve wages and benefits for these "overworked and underpaid" employees.
Note: We don't recall The Orlando Sentinel editorial board opposing the pay cuts or wage freezes these employees were subjected to in recent years, let alone the 3% pay cut these employees recently because they participate in the FRS.
Further note: The editors think "tenure" ought to be a factor in determining employees' salary? Their masters won't like that.
"Unemployment rate likely will be among the nation’s highest"
"If anything shows why Florida needs to create jobs quickly, this may be it: The Sunshine State’s unemployment rate likely will be among the nation’s highest for several more years."
One state economist pegs it at 8 percent four years from now. That’s more than double the unemployment rate in 2006.
"Florida's stubborn jobless rate sullies reputation".
That’s about three-quarters of a million Floridians out of work.
"Comprehensive strategy based on the greatest benefit to Floridians"
The Sun Sentinel editorial board: "A $3 billion resort on Miami's waterfront that could include a casino? Florida's gambling prospects certainly have gotten a lot more ambitious since a constitutional amendment in 2004 paved the way for pari-mutuel casinos."
Then again, a persistent economic decline has dropped state revenues like a rock, so to speak, jacked up unemployment to 10.7 percent and changed attitudes. As such, the Legislature, which would have to approve legislation permitting more gambling expansion, is gearing up for quite an onslaught of bills and lobbying.
"Florida needs a comprehensive plan to manage, expand gambling".
The Seminole Tribe warns an expansion would violate the $200 million compact negotiated with the state. The pari-mutuels also want the right to develop destination casinos. Then there are companies like Las Vegas Sands and Genting Malaysia seeking to build casino metropolises. ...
What the state needs now is what we have previously argued for: a comprehensive strategy based on the greatest benefit to Floridians.
"Too compressed a calendar"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board writes that, "in their zeal to enshrine Florida as the fifth nominating state in next year's presidential primaries, [Florida] officials have caused national discomfort. Early nominating states Iowa and New Hampshire have vowed to hold their first-in-the-nation contests before Florida's primary -- meaning the presidential election season could begin around New Year's Day. This is clearly too compressed a calendar, too soon in the year. Candidates with name recognition and lots of campaign cash will hold a big advantage over underdogs hoping to score a primary breakthrough and then build momentum." "Florida should not leap to a Jan. 31 primary".
"What Bondi released this week was thin"
Scott Maxwell writes that "when last we checked on Attorney General Pam Bondi, she was being investigated for forcing out two of her top-producing investigators, and legislators had asked her to produce records to justify her actions."
Well, the investigation is still going, and state officials are tight-lipped about when it might be complete.
"Lawyers fought corruption, then lost their jobs".
But public records are starting to trickle out. And if there was a smoking gun to justify these ousters, there's no paperwork to show it.
To the contrary, state Rep. Darren Soto said his reading of the documents show that Bondi's office ousted "forceful champions who were slugging it out in the trenches on behalf of Floridians."
[State Rep. Darren] Soto, D-Orlando, and other legislators filed a records request, asking for anything that might justify the expulsions.
What Bondi released this week was thin. The lead document was a complaint from an attorney representing a company being investigated for something else. Specifically, noted defense attorney [and Bush attorney in the 2000 election fiasco] Barry Richard complained that Clarkson and Edwards were too adversarial and unprofessional, adding that he believed they had "a pre-judgment that my client [Cash4Gold] was engaged in some type of wrongdoing."
"Americans United for Life says Planned Parenthood investigation part of strategy to end abortion".
"Legislators focusing on cycle of drug-related despair"
"One of every 10 inmates in the Florida prison system is behind bars for using drugs, and only a fraction get help for their addiction. The rest languish, get out, reoffend to support their drug habit and are locked up again. Legislators are now focusing directly on this cycle of drug-related despair in the hope of reducing the recidivism rate and lowering the cost of running the prison system." "Lawmakers debate raising focus on drug treatment for inmates".