"Browning is leaving a mess to his successor"
"As Florida's chief elections official, Kurt Browning takes pride in guiding Florida through trouble-free voting since the chaotic 2000 presidential recount."
He has one final chance to get it right, and it may not be easy."[T]he American Civil Liberties Union, says Browning is leaving a mess to his successor." "Election law oddity will leave Hillsborough and Pinellas operating under different rules".
Browning, who will resign his post as secretary of state next month and head home to Pasco County, promised Gov. Rick Scott he would manage the Jan. 31 presidential primary, which will draw attention as the largest state so far in which Republican voters will cast ballots.
But his decisions set in motion a bifurcated situation in which 62 counties will run the primary under one set of laws and five others will run it differently.
Nowhere will this oddity be more noticeable than in Tampa Bay, where Pinellas and Pasco counties will operate under the new law and neighboring Hillsborough County will follow the old law.
"The New Jim Crow"
Leonard Pitts Jr. reminds his readers of The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander, wherein
Alexander promulgated an explosive argument. Namely, that the so-called “War on Drugs” amounts to a war on African-American men and, more to the point, to a racial caste system nearly as restrictive, oppressive and omnipresent as Jim Crow itself. ..."The new Jim Crow alive and thriving".
On March 15, Alexander has agreed to appear with [Pitts] at Books & Books in Coral Gables, where I will moderate a discussion with an audience.
Virtual school "accountability is spotty at best"
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "In about the time it takes for a student to go from kindergarten to high school graduate, the Florida Virtual School has grown from a mere idea into the largest K-12 online school in America that is funded with public money. It enrolls 130,000 students and is poised to grow even bigger."
But the stampede to virtual schooling is more about avoiding costs in traditional public schools and making money online than it is about student performance. It's time to require more accountability — and to realize that online schools aren't the answer to every question in education."Online schools must be accountable too".
Florida Virtual School's cheerleaders argue that it educates students faster, better and cheaper than traditional schools. Faster and cheaper, perhaps. The school touts a bargain price, saying it saves $2,100 per pupil compared with regular schools. But better? As Tampa Bay Times staff writers Rebecca Catalanello and Marlene Sokol reported last Sunday, those performance claims often overreach, and true accountability — so valued by legislators in traditional public schools — is spotty at best.
Wingnuts in a dither
"A half-century after the nation struggled over whether a Catholic could serve in the White House, a question is lurking in the Republican race for president:"
Can a Mormon?"Is Mitt Romney's Mormon faith an issue? South Carolina is test case".
If Romney's momentum is halted, South Carolina is the likely place. Evangelicals made up 60 percent of the Republican vote here in 2008.
Interviews across South Carolina over the past week revealed the antipathy some evangelical Christians hold toward Mormonism. ...
South Carolina has a history of dirty politics, and with six days before the primary, something could develop. In the 2008 campaign, voters received anti-Romney mailers from an anonymous source that called attention to polygamy, which the Mormon church banned more than a century ago. ...
If Romney emerges as the nominee, 91 percent of white evangelical Republicans nationally would back him over President Obama, according to a November poll by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
At the same time, the survey found that nearly two out of three evangelicals do not believe Mormonism is a Christian religion and that 15 percent of evangelicals would not support Romney.
No one seems to want Scott's endorsement
"No matter how many times the question was asked or how it was posed on Saturday, Gov. Rick Scott declined to say which presidential candidate he would get his vote in Florida's Republican primary on Jan. 31." "Gov. Scott keeps mum on presidential preference".
Scott may get control never bestowed on previous chief executives
"Scott, the outsider who at one point railed against the political establishment, may soon start getting the kind of control that was never bestowed on Florida's previous chief executives. It's still early in the 2012 session but the Republican-controlled Legislature is starting to move ahead with proposals that would give Scott more hands-on power to shape the judicial branch and control regional job development agencies." "Fla. Legislature could give Scott more power".
"Interior Department chief plans Everglades announcements".
"Florida is standing at the precipice"
Myriam Marquez: "Even taking into account extra federal funds that go toward helping states teach students in living in high-poverty regions, the disabled or those learning a second language,"
Florida just scored a “D+” in revenue spent per student, ranking 39 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia."On education, money counts".
But wait, it gets worse. That just-released study of rankings by Education Week used spending statistics from 2009 — before Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature whacked $1.35 billion from public schools last year. Are we dead last now? ...
[T]here is a breaking point to this public school formula for educational success, and Florida is standing at the precipice. Florida, never a big spender on education, has cut to the bone and is heading to the gristle. The past four years, education funding has been slashed by 12 percent.
The governor’s new-found love for education spending simply would restore $1 billion to public schools, which wouldn’t even cover last year’s bloodletting.
Out here in the fields ... a meaningless constitutional right
Bill Maxwell: "We hear a lot about farmworkers' low wages, their poor housing and the anti-immigrant movement that has frightened many. But we rarely hear about another serious problem farmworkers face: widespread exposure to pesticides on the job."
Jeannie Economos, the pesticide coordinator for the Farmworker Association of Florida in Apopka, sees this problem firsthand every day. She told me about a Mexican woman who walked into the association's office one recent afternoon. Her entire face was swollen, her eyes almost shut. The woman was certain she had been exposed to pesticides in the plant nursery where she worked. ..."Pesticides put workers at risk".
Advocates argue that because farmworkers do not have political and economic clout in statehouses and the nation's capital, they remain invisible in spite of the essential work they do – work that no one else will do. ...
Florida's lax enforcement of federal pesticide regulations greatly concerns farmworker advocates. "By last count, there were over 40,000 agricultural operations in Florida and only 40 inspectors statewide to monitor and enforce regulations on all the agricultural operations in the state," ...
Another problem is that few laborers are trained to understand the effects of the pesticides in their workplaces. The major reason: Farmworkers are not covered under the National Labor Relations Act[*]. And because Florida is a right-to-work state, farmworkers have difficulty forming unions to protect their interests. As such, they lack a legal right to know which pesticides they come in contact with. ...
Advocates argue that because farmworkers do not have political and economic clout in statehouses and the nation's capital, they remain invisible in spite of the essential work they do – work that no one else will do.[**]
- - - - - - - - - -
*The National Labor Relations Act provides that only "employees" can unionize, but states that the "term 'employee' ... shall not include any individual employed as an agricultural laborer".
Ironically, agricultural workers (farmworkers) in Florida (of all places) actually possess a Florida state constitutional right to unionize and bargain collectively. There is a little problem, however, in that this fundamental state constitutional right of Florida farmworkers to unionize is not "self-executing"; that is to say, it is too complicated to be utilized by workers without an act of the Florida Legislature adopting implementing legislation. Funny thing, the Legislature just hasn't found the time to adopt such implementing legislation. In the meantime, then, the constitutional right is worth less than the paper it is written on. See "Florida's shame".
** To the extent agricultural work really really is "work that no one else will do", that is of course because migrant farmworkers are not compensated enough to attract U.S. workers.
As Maxwell points out (and as discussed above), agricultural workers do not have the right to unionize.
In this connection, recall that there are many equally undesirable, if not more undesirable occupations that U.S. workers are more than happy to take on. Take coal mining as an example: few would argue that toiling in the filthy, unsafe conditions of a coal mine is a desirable occupation - however, coal miners, unlike farmworkers, make a decent living (some even get pensions! Will the arrogance of these people ever cease?) These decent wages and benefits - which exist in large part due to unionization - permit mining companies to easily attract workers.
The best they could do?
"Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon met their goals and then some in the first half of their two-year tenures."
But the Republican leaders are better known now for an ugly end-of-session meltdown last year that left Haridopolos embarrassed and choking back tears. And, with their final year under way, they are already headed for a standoff."Florida legislative leaders resume uneasy alliance".
Haridopolos, a Merritt Island history buff elected to the Florida House in 2000, says lawmakers need to deal with the thorny task of drawing new congressional and legislative boundaries - the reason the session began two months early this year - and come back later to handle the unglamorous job of fixing a $2 billion deficit.
Cannon, a Winter Park lawyer who launched his career in the Capitol as a lobbyist a decade ago, insists there's no reason to wait on the budget and that none of his partner-across-the-hall's priorities will be addressed until the spending plan is approved.
Tension between leaders can be good, some people, including Cannon, say.
Local pols discover Facebook and Twitter
Anthony Man: "Facebook, Twitter reshaping political campaigns".
The man who likes to "fire people" on the air in Florida
"The momentum is on Mitt Romney's side for the GOP nomination, but Romney allies behind a well-funded political committee are taking no chances in Florida."
The independently run [insert laff track here] Restore Our Future super PAC is running ads across Florida trashing Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum."Ads by Romney's allies strike at Santorum, Gingrich".
"Barack Obama knows four facts about Rick Santorum that you don't," says a woman narrator in the Santorum spot that began airing last week. "Santorum pushed for billions in wasteful pork, voting for the Bridge to Nowhere, a teapot museum. Even an indoor rain forest. Santorum voted to raise the debt limit five times, increasing spending and debt by $3 trillion. And he even voted to let convicted felons vote. So how will Santorum beat Obama? Obama knows he can't."
"Top prize in this year's GOP presidential primary season"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editors: "It may not matter if Florida Republicans get the worst seats and lousiest hotel rooms at this summer's Republican National Convention in Tampa -- the Sunshine State probably will end up being the top prize in this year's GOP presidential primary season." "Game on: Florida will be the top GOP prize".
Scott has tapped his inner Ralph Kramden
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "In recent years, whenever the subject turns to funding Florida schools, the Legislature turns into an episode of 'The Honeymooners.'"
Lawmakers channel Ralph Kramden. Looking to better state K-12 schools' budgetary lot, legislative Kramdens connive and calculate get-rich-quick schemes. ..."Get-rich schemes not schools' funding key".
Even Gov. Rick Scott — who's counting on a bump in lottery sales to help cover his proposed billion-dollar boost to the education budget — has tapped his inner Kramden.
"Agenda that’s light on job-creation ideas"
Zac Anderson: "Facing another year of high unemployment and tepid economic growth, state leaders opened the 2012 legislative session with an economic agenda that’s geared toward cutting business costs but light on direct job-creation ideas." "Legislative session renews debate on jobs".
"Scott still hasn't tipped his hand"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "The battle lines are becoming clearer in what's shaping up as the biggest and most expensive showdown in Tallahassee this spring -- the clash over a proposal to allow Las Vegas-style casino gambling in Florida. Gov. Rick Scott still hasn't tipped his hand on the issue, although it was reported last year that he was open to allowing large casino resorts in the state." "State shouldn't depend on gambling revenue".
"Egos — not students' needs — drive academic policies"
The Tampa Tribune editors "hope lawmakers paid close attention to House Speaker Dean Cannon's opening day speech, which addressed a serious threat to Florida's economy."
The state university system, Cannon warned Wednesday, "is racing toward mediocrity""Cannon's thoughtful warning on higher ed".
He described a "higher education system with no clear mission, universities pursuing overlapping agendas despite limited public resources, and our community colleges rapidly transforming themselves into four-year-degree institutions."
And lawmakers, Cannon acknowledged, should take a share — we would say the lion's share — of the blame for "parochially advancing the interests of our local university or college at the expense of the system as a whole."
The result has been a chaotic system, where political egos — not students' needs — drive academic policies.
The Florida primary - a country clubber's perspective
Kingsley Guy: "Economic issues will be particularly important in Florida. It suffered more than most states because of the collapse of the housing market, and still has an unemployment rate above the national average."
Florida isn't Iowa or South Carolina, where evangelical Christians make up a large portion of the electorate in both the GOP primaries and the general election. Florida skews more toward the libertarian and establishment brands of Republicanism rather than the religious, and what plays well in Iowa and South Carolina in regards to social issues won't have such widespread appeal here."For candidates, it's still the economy".
The 2005 Terri Schiavo controversy should serve as a case study for candidates campaigning in Florida. Right-to-life advocates, led by then-Gov. Jeb Bush and the GOP-dominated Florida Legislature, launched an effort to reverse the courts and keep Schiavo hooked up to a feeding tube.
The tube may have kept Schiavo alive, but in a "persistent vegetative state," which millions of people considered a fate worse than death. The controversy eventually reached Congress, where GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, then a senator from Pennsylvania, led the effort to keep the feeding tube connected.
The state and federal governments' interference in an end-of-life decision resulted in an enormous backlash. The late Jim King, then the president of the Florida Senate, declared his initial support for legislative interference in the Schiavo case was the biggest mistake of his political life. Much of the scorn heaped on him came not from Democrats, but Republicans, who were appalled by such government intrusiveness. Nationally, the controversy contributed to the GOP's 2006 election debacle that gave Democrats control of Congress.
GOP candidates should note that unlike the U.S. Constitution, the Florida Constitution explicitly establishes a right to privacy. The provision was put there through a vote of the people to guard against government interference in their lives from both the left and the right.
So repeat after me: "It's the economy, stupid." The candidate who sticks most closely to this message will win the Florida primary, and eventually the GOP nomination.
Union bashing in Miami-Dade - Round Two
"Carlos Gimenez and county commissioners will again face off over controversial union concessions for round two of this tug-of-war." "Miami-Dade mayor’s veto sets up political showdown with commission".