Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry.
"Sen. Bill Nelson on Thursday asked the Justice Department to probe whether new voting laws passed in Florida and more than a dozen other states were part of a coordinated effort to suppress voter turnout among millions of people in next year's presidential election."
Nelson, a Democrat who will be on the ballot himself in Florida next year, asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate "whether new state voting laws resulted from collusion or an orchestrated effort to limit voter turnout.""Most of the potentially disenfranchised belong to the Democratic Party's core constituencies — minority, elderly, young and low-income voters."
New voting laws signed in May by Republican Gov. Rick Scott curtail the number of early voting days in Florida from 15 to eight. The law also makes it more difficult for third-party groups, such as the League of Women voters, to register voters by giving them only 48 hours to turn in voting forms."Nelson seeks voting laws probe". See also "Members of Congress send letters to secretaries of state opposing new voting laws".
Nelson has been particularly critical of changes to early voting that no longer allow people to vote on the Sunday before elections — a prime time for many African-American voters who would cast their ballots following church services. ...
Nelson earlier this week in a speech on the Senate floor pointed out that the new, stricter voting laws are in states that make up two-thirds of the 270 electoral votes need to win the presidency. That includes Florida, where his own re-election — and the presidential contest — will mark the first major test.
Don't tell Grover
"If the Florida Legislature makes no changes, employers throughout the state will see significantly higher unemployment tax bills." "Unemployment tax in Florida may rise sharply in 2012".
Rewarding Florida for dragging its feet on dirty water
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Why is the federal government continuing to reward Florida for dragging its feet on cleaning up dirty waters? The latest gift to the state’s big polluters came when the EPA gave tentative approval to new state pollution standards that are far short of what our waterways need." "Florida's polluters win again".
Republicans diss Fla-Bagger convention
"The Florida Tea Party Convention being held this weekend in Daytona Beach doesn't seem to be getting ... respect. Very few of the top Republican presidential and Senate candidates and Florida elected officials plan to attend the event, which begins today, and is scheduled to include Senate and presidential candidate forums. Most are citing scheduling conflicts, government business or the pressure of campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire as their reasons for missing the event. But political experts say the declining public reputation of the tea party movement may also be part of the reason." "Few top Republicans coming to Florida Tea Party Convention". See also "Politicians are politely avoiding Tea Party Convention".
Empty suit in search of a press conference
"Amid revelations that the Obama administration considered bailing out the solar company Solyndra, a House subcommittee on Thursday voted to subpoena White House records related to the failed firm's financial and political connections. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Oversight Subcommittee, said the subpoena was necessary because the White House is 'slow-walking' all requests for information." "House Subpoena Widens Probe of Federal 'Green Jobs' Boondoggle".
"Terrible news for Florida and its schoolchildren"
The Saint Petersburg Times editors: "Education isn't free. And the failure to spend enough on public education can be expensive, indeed."
Stagnating test scores for Florida students on a nationally important test illustrate what happens when education funding drops. And the same politicians who have lauded Florida's educational progress over the past decade need to step up and be heard now that the results are not so rosy."Education cuts felt in test results".
Results for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the so-called "nation's report card," show that Florida's students have basically plateaued since 2007. (A representative sample of fourth- and eighth-graders is tested in math and reading every two years.) Not coincidentally, state funding for education per pupil has dropped from $7,126 to $6,268 during that same time.
Whatever the limits of standardized testing, this is terrible news for Florida and its schoolchildren. The loss of reading coaches, the increasing pressures on classroom teachers and a focus on budget cuts have combined to hurt the state's students.
"Florida's troubling take on gambling"
Scott Maxwell laments "Florida's troubling take on gambling — proposing to expand it right after cutting funding to deal with gambling-related problems. That's a bad combination. As the Sentinel's Gary Taylor reported Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the state's $500,000 contribution to the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, even as calls for help are on the rise. The Seminole Tribe still gives $1.75 million. And $500,000 would be a drop in the bucket of proceeds from the state lottery — which more than half of the callers to the hotline listed as one of their top two addictions." "Gambling, prayer and the 'celebrate plate'".
"Casino Bill Could Face Long Odds"
"As an Indian Giver, Florida Casino Bill Could Face Long Odds". See also "Q&A: Erik Fresen and Ellyn Bogdanoff Discuss Their Casino Bill".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Flawed gambling bill requires reshuffling".
West featured speaker at CPAC 2012
"The American Conservative Union announced on Friday that South Florida Congressman Allen West will be a featured speaker at CPAC 2012, the 39th annual Conservative Political Action Conference, another sign of his starring role on the Right." "Allen West to highlight conservative conference". See also "Allen West to be a featured speaker at CPAC 2012".
In rush to suppress vote, state may violate its own laws
"Because the state was denied an expedited hearing for its new voting laws, Florida might find itself conducting a presidential primary with two different sets of elections laws. An elections expert writes that if this is the case, the state would be in violation of its own statutes."
Dr. Daniel Smith, president of ElectionSmith and a professor at the University of Florida, points out that “in denying the state’s request for an expedited hearing and decision, the federal district court’s decision to wait until May to hear oral arguments has virtually assured that the January 31 [Presidential Preference Primary] will be conducted with two sets of election laws.”"Why inconsistent voting rules during presidential primary might be illegal".
The Americans Civil Liberties Union of Florida, one of the interveners in the case, echoed this argument following the decision. The group said in a statement that “because Governor Scott and Secretary of State Browning moved ahead to implement the law without waiting for federal approval, one major result of the ruling is that Florida will conduct its January Presidential Preference Primary with two sets of election laws in the state.”
If this is the case, the state could be violating its own laws.
The Brennan Center for Justice wrote a letter to Browning this past June warning him that implementation of the new voting laws before federal preclearance could violate state statutes.
"Santorum to visit Palm Beach County"
"Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, whose low-budget campaign has concentrated on building momentum in Iowa, is paying a rare visit to Florida this weekend with stops in Palm Beach County." "GOP presidential candidate Santorum to visit Palm Beach County on Saturday".
Carl Hiaasen: "GOP laff-fest coming soon to our state".
Them damn unions
"Union again beats state in private prison legal fight".
"Cannon an anti-casino wild card"
Aaron Deslatte: "The well-moneyed forces for turning South Florida into a destination casino boomtown will confront a wave of opposition from existing casinos and racinos, theme parks defending their convention business, and social conservatives."
One wild card to consider: House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park."Dean Cannon is an anti-casino wild card".
Here's why. Cannon has already secured his legislative policy legacy by blowing up Florida's growth-management agency, and putting on the 2012 general election ballot a judicial reform measure – albeit a watered-down one – that would give the Legislature more influence over Florida Supreme Court appointees, including the power to confirm them.
Entrepreneurs in action
"Florida disability administrators are recommending a ban on caregivers who have harmed residents living in ALFs." "Time to ban ALF caregivers who abuse, state is told".
Country club slavery
"In Immokalee, a dozen Hispanics spent long days in the fields then were forced to sleep in a rental truck. In Boca Raton, Filipino workers pulled grueling shifts at country clubs then returned home as captives, fed rotten chicken and denied medical attention."
Stories such as these from recent years in Florida are chilling examples of human trafficking — an issue officials say is growing but often overlooked."Marco Rubio uses Senate platform to call attention to human trafficking".
"There are a just a few inalienable truths in life and, for many, one of them is that school teachers are underpaid—but that's just not the case according to two leading conservative think tanks."
In a new report that is unlikely to make any friends on the other side of the political spectrum, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute argue that not only are teachers not underpaid but that, when factoring in things like job security and benefits, they're actually substantially overpaid, earning 52 percent more than "fair market levels.""Conservative Think Tanks: Teachers Are Overpaid".
"Hispanic lawmakers continue to hammer Umatilla Republican"
"Two weeks after Sen. Alan Hays’ controversial remarks on the possibility of a Congressional district meant to give Latinos an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice, Hispanic lawmakers are continuing to hammer the Umatilla Republican and call for his removal from a key committee." "Fla. state Senator’s call to check Hispanic voters’ citizenship continues to draw fire".
Ricky gets his hands dirty
"Scott spends ‘workday’ at Port of Miami".
Lawmakers meet with exiles
"Miami lawmakers on Capitol Hill hosted several former Cuban prisoners who had protested against the regime of Fidel Castro." "Lawmakers meet with freed Cuban prisoners".