"Florida all but clinched the Republican presidential nomination for John McCain in January 2008 and state leaders set a similarly early primary for 2012 with the goal of again ensuring outsized influence for Sunshine State Republicans."
But political experts increasingly see Florida’s Jan. 31 primary as likely a pit stop on a long journey to the nomination rather than the finish line."Is Florida’s early primary too early?". Background: "Florida insiders expect GOP nominating contest to extend beyond state's primary".
That could mean a long, bruising intra-party fight before the GOP turns its focus on President Barack Obama, and it could give a leg up to Mitt Romney. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has surged ahead of Romney in many polls, but Romney at this point has the resources and campaign organization best equipped for a protracted campaign in state after state.
Argenziano lawsuit targets the "disaffiliation" provision of election law
"Former state Sen. Nancy Argenziano filed a lawsuit Friday challenging a new state law that prevents her from running for Congress as a Democrat. Argenziano, 56, switched from the Republican Party to the Independent Party on June 3, but that was supposed to be temporary, she said. In August, she announced plans to run for the 2nd Congressional District seat as a Democrat but within days it became clear the state’s new election law prohibits her from changing parties again."
“I wanted to get the heck out of the 'R’ Party,” she said Friday. “My conscience wouldn’t allow me to stay there.”"Nancy Argenziano sues to block part of Florida's new election law". See also "Party-jumping politician sues state over election law signed by Gov. Scott".
Her lawsuit targets the “disaffiliation” provision, which prevents a candidate from changing parties less than a year before the start of the week-long qualifying period. Qualifying for 2012 congressional elections will be from June 4-8, 2012, so the cutoff was June 4 of this year.
Argenziano is asking the court to rule the provision unconstitutional because it bars her from seeking the Democratic nomination for the congressional seat or becoming affiliated with the Florida Democratic Party.
The election law, signed by Gov. Rick Scott on May 19, is the most controversial piece of legislation from the 2011 session.
Medicaid deform, courtesy of the values crowd
"New premiums and copay proposals for Florida Medicaid beneficiaries, including $100 for every non-emergency ER visit, are among the highest in the country and a new study warns it could cause hundreds of thousands to drop out because they can’t afford to pay them, according to a report released Wednesday by Georgetown University."
Florida lawmakers passed sweeping changes to the Medicaid program this past session, placing the care of the state’s most vulnerable residents, mostly children, into the hands of private providers and hospital networks. Lawmakers said the roughly $20 billion a year Medicaid costs are a strain on a tight state budget and the program couldn’t continue without changes."Study: Florida Medicaid premiums too high"
The bills expand on a controversial five-county pilot program that pays for-profit providers a set fee to cover recipients and allows providers great flexibility in determining patient coverage. Doctors have dropped out of the program, complaining of red tape and that the insurers deny the tests and medicine they prescribe. Patients have complained they struggled to get doctor’s appointments. Supporters of the overhaul say new accountability measures will address those concerns.
But the state needs permission from federal health officials to continue the plan.
Meanwhile, "Hospitals, lawmakers oppose Gov. Rick Scott's budget plan to cut Medicaid".
Rubio snubs 1Miami locals
"After three days of waiting for a meeting with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a delegation that’s been lingering in the Florida senator’s office finally decamped for Miami. They didn’t get their meeting, although they were able to meet with Florida’s other senator, Democrat Bill Nelson."
Had they met with Rubio, the protesters said, they would have asked him to consider President Barack Obama’s jobs bill, to extend the federal payroll-tax break for working Americans and for an extension of the federal emergency unemployment-insurance benefits set to expire at the end of the year."Protestors sought meeting with Rubio".
They also would have asked him to "open his heart," said Ricardo Dormevil, 31, a Haitian who has lived in Miami for three years and is seeking U.S. citizenship. A security guard, he recently had his car repossessed and has been threatened with eviction because he can’t pay the rent.
"We’re not here to ask for money or a job," he said. "We want to ask him to open his heart, understand people and listen to people. As a father, I would like to ask him to see the situation of fathers who are unemployed who can’t help their children. To think about that." ...
For three days, many of the Miami protesters sat on chairs inside the small public antechamber to Rubio’s office on the third floor of the Hart Building, chafing at those in the suits strolling in for appointments. Most stood outside in the hallway; sitting is frowned on by the Capitol Police. The 1 Miami protesters left Thursday afternoon only because they had a 4:30 p.m. meeting with Nelson, and then an 18-hour bus ride home.
They didn’t show up expecting to be accommodated just because they are from Miami, said José Suárez, a spokesman for the 1Miami coalition.
They’ve been trying to meet with Rubio since August, Suárez said, when 1Miami formed. Made up of organized labor, community groups and faith-based organizations, 1Miami began in the spring as part of an effort to shift the national debate to the economy and jobs.
"Our focus is on trying to change the debate, to one that focuses on the hard-working middle class," Suárez said.
"How much of a disconnect with reality is this?"
Daniel Ruth: "When the Legislature allowed folks armed to the teeth to roam about government buildings, its supporters acted as if the O.K. Corral Act of 2011 was as benign as permitting the free and open display of boutonnieres."
After all, why shouldn't someone entering the Capitol be able to bring along their little concealed friends, Smith & Wesson?"Rootin' tootin' totin' Florida constituents".
It's probably just a coincidence, then, that Senate security now feels it necessary to install panic buttons on the phones of every senator and staff member. What should we call this? The "Crazy as a Loon App"?
There's a perfectly good reason to provide panic buttons. This is Tallahassee. This is state government, which has all the potential to attract folks who are, how to put this as politically correct as possible, nuts.
And those are just the members of the House and Senate.
Gingrich in the lead
"A new poll by Quinnipiac University shows President Barack Obama is looking at a tight re-election race in Florida, while Newt Gingrich has passed Mitt Romney among Republican voters." "Poll: Presidential race a dead heat in Florida; Gingrich leads Romney". More: "Poll: Newt Gingrich surging, up 13 points in Florida". See also "Gingrich comes to debate with front-runner status".
Buchanan investigation continues
"Office of Congressional Ethics continues investigation into Buchanan".
Jeremy Wallace: "Whether a product of trying to follow new constitutional amendments or employing old school bare-knuckles politics, the initial results of state lawmakers’ efforts to redraw Florida’s political boundaries are the same: massive upheaval." "Redistricting could have domino effect on lawmakers".
"If a goal of the proponents of the Fair Districts amendments was to make legislative seats more competitive and diverse, the House redistricting maps released this week may inch closer to that ideal." "Florida House maps draw near to spirit of Fair District amendments".
"A school prayer bill introduced by state Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, has caught the attention of national groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The groups are calling foul and warn that the bill is 'patently unconstitutional.' Siplin, however, maintains that his bill is constitutional in a new interview with The Florida Independent." "Sponsor defends school prayer bill against charges that it’s ‘patently unconstitutional’".
"Or maybe not. It's anyone's guess"
"If three destination resort casinos are constructed in Florida as envisioned in a bill before lawmakers, the South Florida economy could reap $206 million in new construction, the state could draw millions of new tourists, and the state's coffers could grow by as much as $455 million over the next four years, the state's chief economist predicts. Or maybe not. It's anyone's guess." "State economists can't give firm estimate of gambling proposal's impact". See also "Solid Casino Figures Elude Florida State Economists".
Meanwhile, "Bondi, Putnam oppose South Florida resort casino plan".
"There should be a trial"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Florida has "a paramount duty" to provide students a 'high quality' public education. In 1998, voters amended the state constitution to say precisely that. Parents and education activists have sued the state for failure to make education 'paramount.' But can courts enforce that duty, for example by ordering the state to spend more on education?"
It's more likely that voters themselves will have to do it, legislator by legislator, governor by governor. But the courts could step in. Gov. Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and former Education Commissioner Eric Smith tried to get the lawsuit dismissed. They argued that the state constitution gives power over spending to the legislative and executive branches. Asking courts to judge whether Florida has met its "paramount duty" on education, they said, violates separation of powers and asks courts to make political decisions."Seek 'quality' at ballot box".
But Leon County Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford refused to dismiss the case. State officials might win at trial, but there should be a trial. In a very rare move, all 15 members of the 1st District Court of Appeal heard the appeal from Judge Fulford's decision that courts have jurisdiction. In late November, the appeals court ruled 8-7 that Judge Fulford was right not to dismiss the case.
"Fla. school superintendents oppose FCAT proposal".
Scott pitting schools against health
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "While it's good that Gov. Rick Scott is showing a newfound appreciation for K-12 education in his proposed state budget, state lawmakers need to ensure that it doesn't cripple Florida's health care system, particularly hospitals such as Tampa General Hospital that treat a high number of desperately ill patients." "Scott targets hospitals".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Budget shouldn't pit schools vs. health".
"Heaping helping of interest-group squabbling"
Aaron Deslatte: "We couldn't set the holiday table for an early Florida legislative session without a heaping helping of interest-group squabbling. And one of the most cash-fueled battles to christen the New Year will be over your auto insurance." "Special interests collide in battle to overhaul Florida's no-fault auto insurance".
'Glades got "short shrift in 2011"
The Miami Herald editorial board writes that the "health of the Everglades, Biscayne Bay got short shrift in 2011" "Florida’s environmental treasures".
"Critics remain unconvinced"
"Rick Scott’s proposed 2012-2013 education budget signaled a turnaround by the GOP governor, according to news and education analysts, but critics remain unconvinced." "Scott’s proposed education budget indicates a shift, but critics still aren’t happy".
"Florida barrel racing hearing pushed to February".
"J.D. Alexander isn't backing down"
"Contention has gripped Florida’s university system since state Sen. J.D. Alexander and other Polk County leaders began pushing for the independence of USF’s Lakeland campus. Now Alexander seems to be getting more involved." "J.D. Alexander pursues major inquiry into university system".