The Miami Herald editors: "Attorney General Eric Holder says the U.S. Justice Department will move aggressively to review the plethora of new voting laws that state legislatures across the nation have passed in recent years to exclude minority voters."
There is no better place to start than in Florida where picking and choosing voters has become a high art and low crime. And it is not just minority voters who face these new hurdles but young voters, voters who have moved into new precincts, voters whose interest in politics is newly awakened. In short, voters who aren’t part of a tightly knit group that can be counted on for party-line (dare we say, Republican) ballots in a state where Democrats outnumber GOP registered voters."Consider the issue of restoring civil rights, including the right to vote, to people who have completed their sentences on felony convictions. Not a popular bunch, not a group easy to defend. Yet, these are people who have paid the debt demanded of them by society, and it’s in society’s best interest to give them a stake in the future of their communities.
The stringent rule on ex-felons was hardly the first hurdle to voting by the new-style Republicans dominating Florida politics. The Legislature trimmed the number of days for early voting, clamped down on changes of address at the polls and imposed deadlines on paperwork from registration drives. Mind you, there were no voter-fraud scandals, just the election of Barack Obama."The high art of disenfranchisement".
The Justice Department retains supervision of changes in Florida law because of a history of discriminatory practices in five counties. So the promised review should be thorough but also swift. November’s coming, and a true democracy is a contest of ideas that appeal to the majority, not just to an exclusive club.
Local voters would decide if they want gambling
"County-level voters across Florida would get to decide if they want to expand gambling in their community -- from slot machines to mega-casinos -- under changes proposed to the highly watched destination gaming bill now before state legislators." "Voter Approval for Casinos, Closure of Internet Cafes Among Revamped Resort Bill".
State GOP flooded with absentee ballot requests
"The Iowa caucuses coincided with Tuesday's deadline for Floridians to register for this state's Republican presidential primary on Jan. 31."
Final numbers may not be available for several days. But Florida GOP spokesman Brian Hughes said the state party has been flooded with absentee ballot requests from those seeking to take part in the biggest of the early state contests."Officials say registrations, ballot requests foretell big turnout for GOP primary".
"Anecdotal evidence points to the possibility that this may be a record-setting Republican turnout for a presidential preference primary," said Hughes, adding that close to 400,000 ballot requests have been submitted.
Nine Republicans will be listed on the Florida ballot, including Herman Cain, who suspended his campaign late last year. Only registered Republicans are eligible to cast ballots in Florida's presidential primary.
Entrepreneurs in action
"Third banker pleads guilty in huge Sarasota flipping fraud case".
Let's cut their pensions
"Dying in the line of duty". Related: "Hundreds of cops expected for Deputy Matt Miller's funeral".
"A big shift in the district of Rep. Vern Buchanan"
"The Florida Senate redistricting committee has released a revamped draft of how it proposes to redraw Florida’s congressional lines. The new map shows a big shift in the district of Rep. Vern Buchanan — a shift that came about because of urgings from Charlotte County residents to lump them in with other coastal residents, according to committee chairman Don Gaetz." "Gaetz: Charlotte County concerns prompted shift in Florida Senate’s District 13 map".
"Broward GOP must be about the most clueless group in Florida"
"A letter from the Broward County Republican Party chairman complaining about the redesigned congressional district of Rep. Allen West could trigger legal challenges, a tea party activist says."
"Just when I thought the GOP couldn't get more incompetent, Broward comes along with an effort to save an incumbent? This is Exhibit A in the first lawsuit," said Henry Kelley, chairman of the Fort Walton Beach Tea Party."Broward Complaint about Allen West's District Could Blow Up on GOP". See also "Broward GOP opposes plans for Rep. Allen West's district", "Broward Republicans say redistricting proposals for Allen West are unconstitutional" and "Broward GOP urges district lines that don't hurt Rep. West's chances".
Broward Chairman Richard DeNapoli, in a lengthy letter to legislators, asserted that boundaries drawn by state House and Senate mapmakers unfairly lengthen the odds for West's re-election prospects in the 22nd Congressional District.
By chopping off the Republican-rich northern portion of the district and attaching an inland swath that leans Democratic, the newly configured CD 22 turns up to 5 percentage points bluer.
DeNapoli notes that the current district voted 49.1 percent for Republican Rick Scott in 2010. The new version would have gone only 44.9 percent for Scott.
Kelley agrees that the new maps do West no favors, but questions DeNapoli's arguments and tactics.
"The Broward GOP must be about the most clueless group in Florida. The [Fair Districts] law specifically prohibits protecting incumbents -- which in my opinion is the most rapid path to a lawsuit.
National Opt Out Day
"Public school advocates who oppose mandatory standardized testing to determine teacher salaries and state and federal funding for public schools have called for a National Opt Out Day." "Standardized testing opponents call for National Opt Out Day". Related: "Delay in grading high schools ties up state bonus money".
Mendelsohn must go directly to prison by noon Friday
"Former Tallahassee power broker Dr. Alan Mendelsohn can delay no more and must go directly to prison by noon Friday, a federal judge ruled Tuesday."
Mendelsohn, a former Broward political fundraiser and lobbyist, had already received a seven-month delay before starting to serve his four-year prison term, U.S. District Judge William Zloch wrote in an order. ..."Judge orders Hollywood power broker Alan Mendelsohn to prison by Friday".
Mendelsohn, a Republican, confessed that he participated in Florida’s so-called pay-to-play political culture, and said he funneled money to former state Sen. Mandy Dawson through one of the then-elected official’s close friends.Dawson, a Democrat who represented a district that stretched from Fort Lauderdale to Palm Beach Gardens, has since been charged with tax evasion. She is fighting the charges.
Occupy Orlando opposes corporate personhood
"Occupy Orlando today launched an effort to end corporate personhood. According to a press release, Occupy Orlando today visited the office of state Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, 'to present a formal letter asking for his support to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.'" "Occupy Florida groups take action on campaign finance, free speech rights".
"Wilson Leads Florida in Missed Congress Votes; Adams Record Spotless".
Rubio Laff riot
Ms. Parker can't get enough of Mr. Rubio: "The Rubio factor".
A system focused on increasing wealth at the top of the ladder
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "For a small fraction of Florida's workforce, this week is more than the start of a new year — it also marks an increase in pay. Eight years after Florida voters set a state minimum wage indexed to inflation, the wage rose by 36 cents to $7.67 an hour. That means the 3 percent of Florida workers who earn minimum wage are now guaranteed an hourly wage that's 42 cents more than the federal minimum."
Minimum wage critics frequently bemoan this government intervention in the market, arguing that it artificially raises wages and makes it less likely that businesses will hire new workers. But for more than 75 years, this country has held firm that workers at the bottom of the ladder deserve to make a fair wage. And it's notable that in 2004, after years of inaction by Congress, more than 70 percent of Florida voters approved the state wage plan, understanding that the regulation is one of the few checks on a system that seems more and more focused on increasing wealth only at the top of the ladder."Small step up on the pay ladder".
Wait till the Fla-baggers find out about this
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Despite their political differences, key Florida leaders are showing a united front on behalf of the Everglades, which should encourage citizens who care about the state's natural wonders."
The recent spending bill passed by Congress and signed by the president included $142 million for restoring the Everglades and the Kissimmee River. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Rep. Bill Young of St. Petersburg teamed on the effort to ensure the funding remained in the bill. "Hope on Everglades' horizon".
"Hillsborough Kids Inc. likely to lose $65.5 million annual contract".
"Taxpayer-financed travels are over"
Steve Bousquet: "Frank Peterman's taxpayer-financed travels are over, but the punishment continues."
Nearly two years after the former St. Petersburg lawmaker reimbursed taxpayers for dozens of questionable trips between the state capital and his home in Pinellas County, Peterman faces more problems."Ex-Rep. Peterman could face $5,000 fine and censure over travel abuses".
A state hearing officer is recommending Peterman pay a fine of $5,000 and be censured and reprimanded for what the judge called "excessive" travel during his term as secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice in 2008 and 2009.
"Mr. Peterman used his position as secretary of DJJ to travel to his primary residence at state expense when there was no state purpose for the travel," wrote Susan Belyeu Kirkland, an administrative law judge, in an 18-page order issued Dec. 30.
Romney heads South
"Romney ad to hit Florida airwaves".
"Redistricting won't completely dominate the legislative landscape in January. A look at other issues percolating in the background and who wants what." "Florida Legislative Preview - 2012".
"But Orlando should be above that"
Nancy Smith: "According to Travel & Leisure magazine, the lodging industry as a whole last year took in more than $1.75 billion in surcharges, which means extra fees are likely to be with us for years to come."
But Orlando should be above that.Much more here: "Orlando: Home of Hotel Fees That Need to Die".
There is something distinctly inappropriate and distasteful watching a city built on a worldwide reputation of family-friendliness and first-class entertainment allow its hotels to suddenly load up with charges that scream, "We hate our customers!"
In September during the Republicans' P5 weekend and straw poll at the Orange County Convention Center, and then in October during the Energy Summit at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, I heard conference participants complain mightily about hotel charges they didn't understand and hadn't experienced anywhere else.
"Florida would join a group of 41 other states that have already standardized requirements and application procedures for life insurance, long-term disability coverage and other insurance products, under a measure filed Tuesday and backed by industry representatives and state regulators." "Smith Bill Aims to Place Florida in Insurance Compact".
"Democratic U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson wants federal ban on hazing".