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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, November 27, 2011

Florida the biggest early state prize. Or is it?

    William March: "When Florida Republicans go to the polls on Jan. 31 for their presidential primary, they'll award the winner a major coup, 50 convention delegates."
    By comparison, the first three primary and caucus states -- Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina -- total 65, so Florida is by far the biggest early state prize.

    Or is it?

    If some Republicans have their way, the Florida winner could spend millions to campaign here, and then walk away with a much smaller haul, maybe only a dozen or 15 delegates, diminishing the importance of the state to the winner.

    Florida has long been a "winner-take-all" state in Republican primaries, and the state party has adopted a winner-take-all system for awarding its 2012 delegates.

    But its primary date, Jan. 31, falls into a period when national party rules say only proportional allocation systems are allowed. Such systems divide up delegates among candidates who reach a certain percentage of the votes.

    That could split Florida's delegates among three or more candidates, making the winner's prize much smaller, but providing an unexpected bonus for the second, third or even fourth-place finisher.

    The national Republican Party has said it won't enforce that rule in Florida's case, because the state already is incurring another penalty for its early primary date – those 50 delegates are only half the 99 the state would have if its date conformed to national party rules.

    But one Florida party activist has filed a protest challenging that ruling, and a party committee may yet have to rule on the question – possibly as late as mid-January.

    Meanwhile, campaigns are at work in Florida without real certainty on how many delegates they're competing for.
    "Is Florida GOP's biggest prize? Maybe"

    Thrasher's luv 4 sale

    "Since joining the state Senate in 2009, John Thrasher has tried to add a Jacksonville financial company represented by his old lobbying firm to a list of providers for a lucrative state retirement system." "Thrasher pushes bill to benefit Jacksonville company, client of his former lobbying firm".

    New campus activism?

    "USF government professor Harry Vanden sees the anger rising on campuses across the country."

    "This is a very bad situation for students everywhere," he said. "Student debt is higher than it's ever been. There are no jobs to speak of. These issues affect all of them across the country and it could unite them." ...

    Overall, [student membership in groups like the Tampa chapter of the SDS, Students for a Democratic Society and the recently formed an Occupy USF] at USF and throughout the country are small, nothing like the masses who made up the campus protests of the 1960s and '70s.

    But Vanden, who has written extensively on social reform movements, predicts the student groups will grow.
    "Political science professor Susan MacManus agrees the problems are serious for students. She doesn't, however, see it leading to mass protests."
    "A lot of my students are saying they don't have time to get involved," she said. "They're more concerned about getting through their classes and getting out and moving on."

    She said she saw more involvement three years ago, when Barack Obama was running for president.

    Obama targeted young voters like no candidate had. And they turned out in record numbers to vote for him in 2008, said a Pew Research Center study, "Millenials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change."

    The new SDS had emerged two years earlier, in 2006, with many of its members becoming active in the anti-Iraq war movement, said Justin Wooten, who helped start an SDS chapter at the University of Florida.

    But the energy waned after Obama's election and the disillusionment that accompanied the financial collapse.

    Some people thought the new SDS would collapse, said Wooten, now a student at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

    Then came Occupy Wall Street.

    "I think that's giving everyone sort of a new consciousness," Wooten said.

    Another thing is fueling these protests among students, said Mike Chrisemer, who helped start an SDS group at Florida State University before graduating two years ago.He now attends a graduate program at City University of New York.
    "Rising tuition, 'Occupy' spark new campus activism".

    Florida's death penalty is, "in plain language, dumb"

    The Miami Herald editorial board: "In polite language, Florida law governing the imposition of the death penalty is inherently self-contradictory. In plain language, dumb." "Fix the death penalty".

    Corporate "people" on the run in SoFla

    "When the Supreme Court made its landmark 2008 ruling in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, political warfare was unleashed. It became known among some as the 'corporations are people, too' ruling."

    The ruling has become a rallying point of the left and others who believe corporate money has a corrupting influence on the electoral process. And now cities are getting into the act, including two in South Florida. ... the city of South Miami and town of Cutler Bay passed resolutions urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its 2010 decision.
    "The two cities called for a constitutional amendment to redefine the word 'person' to exclude legal entities."
    The protest against Citizens United, however, has already built some national momentum. A number of cities around the country have passed similar resolutions and House and Senate Democrats have introduced amendments in their respective chambers against the ruling, most recently a House amendment introduced in November that, if passed and found to be constitutional, would give Congress the power to regulate campaign contributions to federal candidates and similarly give states the power to regulate contributions in state elections.
    "Are corporations the same as people?".

    Florida Family Policy Council claim "Mostly False"

    "As lawmakers wrestle with a proposal to build megaresort casinos in South Florida, some critics of the idea are fighting back by arguing that gambling is morally wrong because it exploits the poor."

    The Florida Family Policy Council, an Orlando-based conservative Christian organization, argued on its blog recently that gambling was socially harmful "because the largest numbers of gamblers comes from the poorest segments of the population."

    To check the claim, PolitiFact Florida reviewed about six studies that included information about gambling and income, as well as several news articles or websites.

    We also interviewed nearly a dozen academics who have studied gambling. Some of the sources came from John Stemberger of the Florida Family Policy Council, while others came from professors, the gambling industry or gambling opponents.

    In the end, we found this claim to be overreaching.
    "PolitiFact: Largest number of gamblers aren't "from the poorest segments of the population".

    Even Arduin?

    The Saint Petersburg Times editors: "It may be the surest sign yet that the Republican establishment in Tallahassee is finally getting serious about collecting sales tax on Internet sales."

    Donna Arduin, former budget adviser to Govs. Jeb Bush and Rick Scott, Senate President Mike Haridopolos and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio when he was state House speaker, has acknowledged the lost state revenue under the state's current tax policy. Arduin's team puts the number at $450 million this fiscal year and as much as $937 million annually by 2020. That's real money worth going after.
    "Internet tax losses add up to real money".

    The Sarasota Herald-Tribune Tribune editorial board: "Charge Internet sales tax".

    The Orlando Sentinel editors: "Be fair: Collect taxes owed on online sales".


    "Florida Gov. Rick Scott's comments last month cut to the heart of the quandary: whether emphasizing science, math and medical fields gives students the best career prospects and a high-tech payback to society, and whether humanities fields are viewed as more of an indulgence than a necessity amid tight budget times." "Colleges defend humanities amid tight budgets".

    "More than $800M in debt owed Florida taxpayers"

    "Even as legislators struggle with a $2 billion budget shortfall, more than $800 million in debt is owed Florida taxpayers - IOUs piled up by businesses, individuals and even a few politicians."

    "Unfortunately, in the real world, people walk away from obligations every day," said Barry Krischer, a former Palm Beach County state attorney. "But sometimes you're giving people a false sense of confidence that the state is cracking down on bad characters, when it's really not."

    Krischer was victimized 15 years ago by one of the state's top debtors, former Palm Beach County Democratic Party Chairman Ted Brabham.

    Brabham was convicted of conspiring to unseat Krischer to help a friend's client, who was seeking leniency in a DUI manslaughter case. Brabham collected $156,000 in illegal campaign contributions, records show. But the elections scheme unraveled and Brabham spent five months in jail on bribery and other charges, lost his law license and still owes the Florida Elections Commission $468,197 for violations.

    Brabham hasn't dropped out of sight. He's moved to Texas - and reinvented himself as an evangelist and concert pianist.

    On his website, tedbrabham.com, he has a question-and-answer section. To the question of his biggest regret, he says, "Not pursuing a career in gospel music before age 40."

    Speaking to The Post, Brabham said he hasn't been contacted by the state. But he conceded that officials will never see the money he owes.
    "The Florida Elections Commission is owed almost $1.4 million by candidates, consultants and political committees. Brabham, the former Palm Beach County Democratic chief, tops the list." "Florida owed more than $800 million by taxpayers, but many debtors don't pay".

    Wage theft ... you got a problem wit dat?

    "Anti-wage theft activists delivered more than 1,500 holiday cards — and, they hoped, a message — recently to Macy's in CityPlace. Their goal: Registering their disappointment with the Florida Retail Federation's proposal of a state bill that would block passage of a wage theft ordinance in Palm Beach County. Paul Imbrone, a Macy's executive based in Miami, is vice chair of the federation." "Wage-theft activists have a message for Macy's and Beall's execs".

    "A hollow ritual"

    Stephen L. Goldstein: "In what has become a hollow ritual, every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers issues a damning Report Card on the nation's infrastructure. But no one pays any attention."

    The latest survey conducted by Florida members of the American Society of Civil Engineers (to be updated early next year) reports that 47 percent of the state's major urban highways are considered congested and 18 percent of bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. There are 72 high-hazard dams here, and Florida's drinking water infrastructure needs an investment of $15 billion. See all the bad news at tinyurl.com/bp7ecj8.

    Take off your blinders, and you have to admit the richest and most powerful nation in the history of the world is crumbling because "the people" have let our leaders shortchange us. These facts validate President Obama's clarion call for government spending on infrastructure, because of compelling needs and the chance to put people to work.

    And it makes you wonder why any governor — please someone tell Rick Scott — would refuse federal dollars or neglect to infuse massive amounts of state funds to accomplish the obvious and urgent.

    Repairs don't go away. Sinkholes and contaminated water don't get better by themselves. Praying doesn't dissipate rust. Pay now or pay later. Things get worse and are most costly to fix the longer they are neglected.
    "Officials ignore our greatest needs".

    Entrepreneurs in action

    "South Florida toilet paper scam to net prison time for three".

    Scott's "position is ridiculous"

    "Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a longtime foe of the Obama administration's health overhaul, says he will not allow the state to implement the 18-month-old health law for a fundamental reason:"

    "It's not the law of the land," said Scott, an attorney and co-founder of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain. "I don't believe it will ever be the law of the land."

    Scott's statements, made in West Palm Beach during a Palm Beach Post editorial board meeting on Nov. 17, have caused a stir. While they may resonate with an estimated 47 percent of the U.S. population who tell pollsters the law should be repealed, they put him at odds with the U.S. Constitution, argued Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University.

    "If this is his position, then he is violating his oath of office, and that is a serious thing that I think the voters of Florida ought to be concerned about," said Jost, co-author of a widely used health law textbook. "His position is ridiculous and he should (and probably does) know better."

    The health law does not force states to do anything but "get out of the way and let the federal government enforce and implement the law," Jost said.
    "Gov. Scott, federal officials at odds over Affordable Care Act".

    "An inversion of the American dream"

    The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Among the disturbing economic trends in America is the sharp decline over the last four decades of families living in middle-income neighborhoods. Instead there is increasing segregation into enclaves of wealth and poverty. This pattern reflects that the middle class, that once broad and stable foundation of American society, is losing ground — literally. America's social mobility and diversity is being replaced with the harsh reality that where a person lives and grows up, and the opportunities that flow from it, too often depend on the size of the family's bank account, an inversion of the American dream."

    A new study by Stanford University researchers paints a bleak picture of the residential income segregation in upwards of 90 percent of the country's 117 biggest metropolitan areas. In 1970, 65 percent of families lived in neighborhoods defined as middle-income. As of 2007, only 44 percent of families did. No longer do a majority of American families live in middle-class communities where the values of stability are stitched into the fabric. While the middle has been squeezed, the extremes have expanded. The study found that a third of American families live in areas that are either wealthy or poor, up from 15 percent in 1970.

    In Florida, the researchers note that the area of Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach and Deerfield Beach went from having only 9 percent of families living in areas of either affluence or poverty in 1970 to nearly 38 percent in 2007.
    "Middle class goes missing".

    Garbage in ... garbage out

    "With Gov. Rick Scott preparing his plan for higher education and the legislative session looming, state university leaders aren't waiting to see what reforms might be coming down the pike. They're making proposals of their own."

    One would tie state funding to measures such as graduation rates. Another would give universities latitude to set higher tuition rates for high-demand degrees and make Bright Futures scholarships exclusively for science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors.
    "Universities try to beat Scott to punch, suggest own reforms".

    NE Florida political millionaires

    "The great recession has been devastating to many in Northeast Florida. But most elected officials can still party like it’s 1999. Financial disclosure forms for local elected officials show that most are doing very well, with about a quarter of the officials being millionaires. Almost 90 percent are worth six figures." "More than a quarter of N.E. Florida public officials are millionaires".

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