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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 Saturday, December 17, 2011

Florida flops in "Race to the Top"

    "Florida has lost out on its bid to win $100 million to boost the care and education of young children. Nine other states have won the federal Race to the Top early learning challenge, the Associated Press is reporting this morning." "Fla loses out on Race to Top Money". See also "Scott says Florida’s ‘no strings attached’ policy didn’t help rejected Race to the Top application".

    The best medical system in the world?

    "More patients turning to ER for dental care".

    "Florida held the earliest primary in the country from 1920 to 1968"

    "Four years ago, Democratic presidential candidates terrified of antagonizing party activists in the exalted early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire signed a pledge to boycott Florida's earlier-than-allowed January presidential primary."

    No one was more disgusted by that boycott — and especially the image of candidates raising money from Florida fat cats while refusing to mix it up with rank-and-file voters — than the chief protector of New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary.

    "I did not support that boycott. No elected official in New Hampshire did,'' said New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner. "The fact that a candidate could talk about his vision for America to people that were willing to pay, but the average little guy couldn't necessarily be there is the absolute upside down of what it should be — and the opposite of what New Hampshire is about."
    "Gardner, 63, has sole authority to schedule New Hampshire's primary, and is reviled by more than a few political leaders across the country as an obstinate bully for refusing to let anyone else share New Hampshire's unmatched influence in the presidential nominations."
    Some background: Presidential primaries didn't even exist until early 20th century reformers such as Wisconsin's progressive Gov. Robert La Follette grew resentful that party bosses picked the nominees in back-room deals. The first state to hold a presidential primary election? Florida, where Democrats in 1904 elected delegates to the national convention, though these delegates were free to back whoever they chose.

    Florida held the earliest primary in the country from 1920 to 1968 (Iowa weighs in earlier, but those are arcane caucus elections), before the Granite State's primary gained the status it has today. That year in New Hampshire, Democratic incumbent Lyndon Johnson barely squeaked by longshot Minnesota Sen. Eugene McCarthy.
    "That 'first-in-the-nation' tag once belonged to Florida".

    "The Panhandle's Joe McCarthy rode his pitchfork to the rescue"

    Daniel Ruth: "Whew! That was a close call. If this obvious conspiracy to dragoon Durant High School students into the Ho Chi Minh Fan Club had been allowed to fester, no telling where things might have wound up."

    But thanks to Geoff Ross, the Panhandle's Joe McCarthy who rode his pitchfork to the rescue, Durant is safe from all manner of fifth columnists, saboteurs and Sandinistas plotting to transform the student body into a bunch of sniffling Bolshevik do-gooders.

    Ross, who is a member of the tea party and the John Birch Society, which wins the quiniela of paranoid conspiracy theories, was stunned to learn Durant counselor Angel Vazquez had invited students to participate in a variety of discussion groups to explore issues such as bullying.

    Vazquez also created a discussion forum he called the "Justice League," which would explore topics such as equality for all — clearly the evil handiwork of the dark forces of oppression. After all, once you start jabbering away about social equality, just as those Trotskyites who drafted the Declaration of Independence, folks might start to expect to be treated equally. Where does it end?

    Cue The Internationale.

    The very idea that students in an educational setting could be exposed to radical concepts like social justice in Plant City so aggrieved some Durant parents that they informed Ross, who contacted the school to complain that "social justice" sounded an awful lot like Marxist communism to him.

    Ross, who took time from combing out his pelt collection in Navarre, expressed concerns that Vazquez was promoting a "pity party" for people who might be poor, or oppressed, or discriminated against because of their race, or some other social glitch. ...

    Indeed, [principal Pamela] Bowden was so rattled by Ross' academic Salem witch trial, she felt compelled to justify her own patriotism to the Gen. Curtis LeMay of the Panhandle.

    When a public high school principal has to pass some specious litmus test to prove her love of country to a tea party/commie-behind-every-bush John Birch Society zealot, you understand why Vazquez created a social justice discussion group.

    In an email distributed to his supporters, Ross bragged, incorrectly, that Vazquez had undergone the public school equivalent of having his epaulets ripped off his shoulders in a thorough shaming involving a summary "court-martial."
    Much more here: "Lessons in civil rights and incivility".

    Feds back consumers over Scott and the Florida insurance industry

    "Seven insurance companies are at risk of having to provide their customers rebates after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday refused to waive a requirement that 80 percent premium collected by insurance companies be targeted to medical care."

    Steve Larsen said he did not accept the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation's argument that immediate implementation of the new medical loss ratio requirement would adversely affect Florida's insurance marketplace. Larsen is the deputy administrator and director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, which is in charge of granting the waivers.

    "We do think it's a competitive market," Larsen told reporters in a conference call announcing the decision.

    Larsen said that even had HHS accepted the OIIR's argument that insurance companies would leave the state, Florida has a "guarantee issue requirement" that means customers would be protected. Under a guarantee issue requirement, if a company withdrew from the state its insureds could go to another company without being discriminated against.

    Larsen sent a 16-page letter to the Office of Insurance Regulation Director Kevin McCarty explaining the decision. Larsen was somewhat critical in the letter noting that his office was asked by several advocacy groups to hold a hearing on the state's waiver request. Although Larsen denied to hold the hearing, he was sympathetic to the organizations' concerns that the OIR's efforts to gather testimony on how the MLR would impact the state was one-sided.

    OIR spokesman Jack McDermott said the office was notified by telephone that its waiver was rejected. McDermott said the office was "disappointed" in the decision.
    "Feds turn down state's request for insurance waiver". See also "Feds back consumers on Florida insurance costs" and "State must follow 80-20 rule, feds decide" ("Some Floridians may get their premium payments back after the state’s request for an exemption from a federal law was shot down.")

    Empty suits, no ideas

    "The $1 trillion omnibus spending bill passed the U.S. House Friday without the help of seven Florida representatives. Conservatives assailed the measure, which passed 296-121, for a variety of reasons." "Seven Florida Republicans Balked at $1 Trillion Federal Spending Bill".

    FlaBaggers warn of UN "intervention in 2012 election"

    "Tea Party Manatee, based in Southwest Florida, sent out an email newsletter this week ... warning that the U.N. is 'trying to Intervene in 2012 Elections.' According to group’s email:"

    - In November 2012 Foreign bureaucrats will appear at your polling station to ensure you adhere to their vision of a ‘fair’ election.

    - Local polling officials who dare to enforce state clean election laws will be subject to lawsuits and arrest.

    - Conservative political speech will be deemed hateful and be suppressed.

    - Just enough voter fraud will be allowed to ensure a second term for Barack Hussein Obama.

    This is not a fantasy – next week it will start to become reality when a delegation of leftist Obama supporters will meet with the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland. And there they will lay the groundwork to ensure the United Nations takes action in time to save Barack Obama.

    You see, the Democratic Left is terrified of the new clean election laws being passed across America. These laws have cleared our voter lists of the dead and the ineligible, require voter identification for everyone and insist that our military be allowed to vote.

    And clean elections are the single greatest weapon we have to ensure an honest vote in 2012 and a single term for Barack Obama. And the Left can’t allow that to happen.

    So they will make their case for action to the UN Human Rights Council – an international government origination so biased that even Hillary Clinton has denounced it.

    Council members like Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Mexico and China will review your election laws and judge if you measure up to their idea of democracy. How can we accomplish any of our goals, like repealing health care rationing, securing the borders and balancing our budget if we can’t even control our own elections?

    That’s why we need to send a clear message to the UN – stay out of America’s elections and abandon Barack Obama to the judgment of the American people. I need you to tell the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to send that very message to the United Nations – by any means necessary.
    "Tea partiers fear United Nations intervention in 2012 election".

    Never mind the pork

    "In Senate bid, Connie Mack no longer boasts of getting budget pork".


    "A Florida Republican congressman who likened Democrats' opinion shaping to the efforts of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels defended his comment Friday as criticism mounted. U.S. Rep. Allen West, a freshman, made the Nazi reference Thursday when asked about Congress' approval ratings and the blame that the public has apparently assigned to Republicans."

    West represents a South Florida district that has an influential Jewish constituency and a sizeable population of Holocaust survivors. He told reporters, in his remarks at the Capitol, that he was comparing Democrats to Nazi propaganda, not the Nazis themselves, but that did little to quell controversy.

    "Congressman West needs to immediately apologize for insulting the memories of the millions who lost their lives during the Holocaust," said Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "Comparing political differences today to the worst Nazi propagandist diminishes what happened to millions of Jewish families during the Second World War. Unfortunately, this isn't the first time that Congressman West has made this type of hateful remark that makes a mockery of what millions of Jewish families suffered."

    West, one of two new black Republicans to join the 112th Congress this year, is a tea party favorite who has repeatedly drawn attention for off-the-cuff comments. He defended his latest remarks, saying through a spokeswoman that twisting his comments was "a perfect example" of what he was talking about.
    "West bashed for likening Dems efforts to Goebbels'".

    "Who couldn’t see the charter school mess coming?"

    Fred Grimm: "Unrestrained conflicts of interest. Little accountability. Slip-shod ethics. Lax oversight. Add landlords and developers and for-profit management companies to the formula. Tempt them with $400 million dollars of public money. Who couldn’t see the charter school mess coming?" "Charter school mess is no surprise".

    The Miami Herald editorial board: "As reported in the Herald’s three-part series, Cashing in on kids, about 12 percent of charter schools that have opened in the past two decades have closed. In the Sunshine State, that failure rate is double."

    Why the disparity?

    Florida law has few regulations to check on finances and academics at charter schools. In fact, during the first few years of charters Florida didn’t even require the schools to make public their students’ FCAT scores. The point of charters was to free schools from some of the requirements that public schools must abide by, like class size limits. But at what point does this produce a drastically unlevel playing field? Florida seems to be perilously close to that breaking point. ...

    [I]n Florida, it’s a free for all.

    At some charter school boards, the members have ties to for-profit companies like Academica that oversee those charter schools’ finances and help hire principals and teachers — principals who then sit on other boards of other Academica-guided schools. ...

    The goal should be a high-quality education for all students — no exceptions.
    "Toughen the law".

    The best they can do

    "A conservative Hispanic political group is teaming up with the Republican Party of Florida to sponsor a presidential primary debate on Jan. 26." "Hispanic group co-sponsoring Fla. GOP debate".

    Rivera slithers into loophole

    "The year-long Miami-Dade state attorney’s office investigation into Congressman David Rivera’s personal and campaign finances has stalled over questions about more than $100,000 in undisclosed campaign donations that appear to fall under a little-known loophole in Florida’s campaign-finance laws."

    Rivera collected the money not for a political office but for a campaign he mounted for an obscure, unpaid position within the Republican Party. Campaigns for party posts are not governed by state election laws, allowing Rivera to raise and spend as much money as he wanted without public disclosure or contribution limits.

    That exception could make it difficult for investigators to charge Rivera with any wrongdoing, if the money they have been probing turns out to be unregulated by state law.

    State prosecutors, working with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, discovered the funds while probing Rivera’s finances dating back to his years in the state House, including payments from a Miami gambling company to a firm with ties to Rivera.
    "Rivera investigation stalled over funds for GOP post".

    "Only a few other states pay less"

    "The prospect of higher taxes for 9 million Floridians and an economic loss of $5.6 billion for the state was held hostage Friday as Congress debated whether to extend a payroll tax holiday. But members of Congress reached an 11th-hour agreement to temporarily extend the tax break to 160 million Americans."

    Congress also was locked up over whether to extend emergency unemployment insurance, a benefit the CBO rated to have the best bang for the buck of so-called stimulus options.

    Because so many workers have been without stable income, except unemployment benefits, for so long, economists say those who receive the checks are most likely to spend them and in turn spur the economy.

    "The No. 1 problem that companies tell us they're facing in the economy is insufficient demand," said Alan Krueger, chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers. "Having more of the unemployed receive unemployment insurance allows them to maintain their consumption and buy goods and services."

    In Florida, weekly benefits average $225, $75 less than the national average. Only a few other states pay less.
    "Late deal on tax break offers relief to Floridians".

    Private contractor incompetence

    "Private contractors that are supposed to guard against Medicare fraud paid claims submitted in the names of dead providers or for unnecessary medical treatments, which were among problems estimated to cost more than $1 billion in 2009, according to an inspector general report released Friday." "Study: Problems with Medicare contractors persist".

    Occupy Florida

    "Tampa's strip club king opens park for protesters". See also "Occupy Tampa to march on Obama office to protest National Defense Authorization Act".

    Charter schools do it the easy way

    "From South Dade to the northern reaches of Broward County, only a handful of students with profound disabilities make it into charter schools, according to a Miami Herald/StateImpact Florida analysis of student enrollment data. The trend holds true across the state, where 87 percent of charter schools don’t serve any students with the most intense support needs."

    [T]he trend is troubling to advocates of children with disabilities, who say charter schools are legally obligated to admit and educate students with the most intense support needs. Like traditional public schools, charter schools are funded by taxpayer dollars, and must abide by anti-discrimination laws and the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. State law also says that students with disabilities shall have an “equal opportunity of being selected for enrollment” in a charter school.

    “Charter schools were supposed to provide a choice for parents,” said Isabel Garcia, executive director of Parent to Parent of Miami, a nonprofit organization that provides support to families with special needs children. “Unfortunately, charter schools are not a choice option for children with disabilities.”

    When it comes to children with less acute disabilities such as learning disorders, South Florida charter schools enroll numbers proportionate to the local school districts.

    Yet in Miami-Dade, only two out of 109 charter schools serve children with more profound disabilities like autism and cerebral palsy. One is a specialized school for children with developmental delays, the other for children with autism.
    "South Florida charter schools admit few special needs children".

    "Shrinking Citizens"

    Aaron Deslatte: "Florida legislators to take aim at shrinking Citizens".

    Entrepreneurs in action

    "Nevada's attorney general traded barbs Friday with the nation's largest lender services company after filing a lawsuit in Las Vegas accusing it of orchestrating a 'robo-signing' scheme to file fraudulent documents in the months before the local housing market collapsed."

    Lender Processing Services, based in Jacksonville, Fla., said it "strongly disputes the allegations," and promised to fight.
    "Nev. AG, Fla. firm trade barbs on 'robo-signing'".

    "Florida overpaid private prisons $13M over 8 years"

    The Chamber lackeys comprising the Tampa Tribune editorial board write that "the Legislature last session passed a measure calling for the privatization of nearly 30 South Florida prisons, a change lawmakers said would save $22 million."

    To be sure, the wisdom of such a sweeping privatization move is debatable.

    Prison privatization has been highly successful, when there is adequate public oversight. But privatization also has led to waste and scandal.

    A 2005 audit found that Florida overpaid two private prisons $13 million over eight years. An investigation a few years before found the now-defunct commission overseeing the state's privately run prisons was more concerned with boosting the profits of politically influential firms than protecting taxpayers.
    "A public debate over private prisons".

    Who needs juries?

    "[A] group called Patients for Fair Compensation proposes a sweeping overhaul to create a workers comp-style system that would adjudicate malpractice claims and curb the costly practice of 'defensive medicine.'" "Medical Malpractice Reform Would Install 'Patient's Compensation System'".

    League of Women Voters joins lawsuit challenging voter suppression

    "New rules in Florida are causing voter-registration rates to drop and turning 'civic participation into a mountain of red tape,' League of Women Voters of Florida President Deirdre Macnab said in Orlando on Friday." "Critics keep up attack on new voter registration law". Background: "Voter groups sue over Florida voting law".

    Out here in the fields

    "Current: Farmworker advocates hope Senate report will help Apopka residents". See also "Farmworker representative says Senate report provides validation for Lake Apopka workers".

    The Obama machine

    Jeremy Wallace writes that "the campaign operation most active in preparation for the fall 2012 election might come as a surprise."

    President Barack Obama’s campaign arm and Democrats have been quietly dispatching dozens of field representatives throughout the state to begin building a ground game for next November, recruiting potential supporters and preparing to deal with new voter laws. ....

    Florida is again expected to play a critical role, especially given the demographics that could determine the outcome.
    "Ahead of Republican primary, Obama camp hard at work".

    The best the AIF could do?

    "Former U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney is the new head of Associated Industries of Florida, replacing Barney Bishop, who was ousted from the job earlier this year. Feeney is also a former Speaker of the Florida House." "Former U.S. Rep. Feeney is new head of business lobby group".

    Weekly Roundup

    "Weekly Roundup: Medicaid Reform, FAMU, Jobs".

    "Great Tallahassee Schools Scam is heading our way"

    Randy Schultz: "Anyone who knows the politics of public education in Florida would have seen it coming. We at The Post did. Now, though, we can confirm that another Great Tallahassee Schools Scam is heading our way."

    This one is about merit pay, the latest supposed miracle cure for education. The Legislature passed a merit-pay plan in 2010, but Gov. Crist - desperate for non-Republican votes - vetoed the bill that teachers hated. Teachers didn't much like the similar bill the Legislature passed this year, but there's a new governor who doesn't need the teacher unions, and he signed it with gusto.

    The plan is supposed to work this way: A sure-fire evaluation system will separate good teachers from slackers. Overachievers will get more money - merit pay - and underachievers will get fired. Repeat each year. Pretty soon, Florida will have nothing but good teachers. ...

    Last Monday, though, Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson met with The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board. We asked who would pay for merit pay. The state? Nope. "It will be up to local school districts," Mr. Robinson said. "It always was going to be state and local."

    In other words, school districts that already face budget cuts for next year - about $53 million, in Palm Beach County's case - will have to find money for a program they didn't want. If the districts don't find the money, the Legislature will blame them for failing to support good teachers, blocking education reform and undermining Florida's economic future. Or worse.

    It's typical Tallahassee, which supports public education right up the point of paying for it.
    "Tallahassee doesn't plan to pay for merit pay".

    Big of him

    "Scott is spreading the Christmas cheer to state workers. He ordered Department of Management Services Secretary Jack Miles to give all nonessential employees a paid day off on Friday, Dec. 23, in order to give them more time to celebrate the Christmas holiday. He also noted that state workers have not received a cost of living increase in over five years." "Christmas bonus: State employees get extra paid day off".

    Bondi flip-flops

    "Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who last week spoke of 'many money laundering cases' involving the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, now says her information came from a conversation she had with a detective at a party." "Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi walks back casino money-laundering claim".

    "Unemployment down a tad"

    "Florida’s unemployment rate slid to 10 percent in November, down 0.4 percent from the previous month and its lowest mark since 2009, according to new data released Friday by the Department of Economic Opportunity." "Florida’s unemployment drops to 10 percent". See also "Unemployment down a tad".

    Putnam glowing

    "Putnam to Push for More Nuclear, Renewables in 2012". Related: "Putnam says his department is putting finishing touches on energy bill".

    "Just in time for the holidays"

    "Just in time for the holidays … attack TV ads to kick off Florida's presidential primary."

    A political group working to elect Mitt Romney is launching TV ads in Tampa Bay criticizing former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich as a baggage-laden disaster against whom President Barack Obama would love to run. ...

    Restore Our Future is a so-called Super Pac that can spend vast sums helping candidates but is not allowed to coordinate directly with the campaign. Several former Romney campaign staffers are working for Restore Our Future, which has been heavily funded by longtime Romney supporters.
    "Pro-Mitt Romney group attacks Newt Gingrich on the air in Florida".

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