"State’s new measure is a simpleton’s way"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Any way you slice and dice the numbers, Florida’s new way of ranking its 67 school districts — based solely on FCAT results, a one-shot test — tells parents and taxpayers absolutely nothing about the quality of their public schools, be they traditional schools or charters."
After a decade of reforms and setting an ever-higher bar for students’ performance (a race to achieve that this editorial board supports), the state’s new measure is a simpleton’s way that ignores today’s complex reality. It does not take into account the size of a district, whether it’s rural, urban or suburban or schools’ progress or lack of it year after year on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. It ignores how many students are taking AP courses and passing, how many of them are minorities or poor and whether there’s improvement."Florida’s simpleton rankings".
It’s all based on one score. Ridiculous.
Casinos ain't dead yet
Fred Grimm: "Ever read a history of the confounding relationships, intricate strategies, shifting coalitions, mighty egos and stunning miscalculations that led to the First World War? It’d be a good primer for Florida’s casino gambling wars. With a flow chart to track the shifting alliances. (And a master plumber to keep the flow chart flowing.)"
Instead of artillery, the belligerents in this particular struggle bombarded Tallahassee with money. Gaming interests bestowed some $2 million on Florida pols in the epic battle over casino legislation. (Beyond what they spent on lobbyists)"Gambling war may be over, but skirmishes linger".
Most of the money was spent trying to wangle support for those mythical “destination casinos” in South Florida. The Malaysian gambling giant Genting, with that prime chunk of Miami Herald property on Biscayne Bay, became the legislature’s Number One gambling sugar daddy, spreading $628,820 around to political PACs and political parties and various politicians’ campaign funds. Meanwhile formidable Vegas players like the Sands, MGM and Steve Wynn were buying up their own cadre of influential friends in Florida. ...
So one gambling entity takes on another as Florida’s gambling wars resume. Though, by mega-casino standards, this only amounts to a skirmish.
Fabiola Santiago: "The powerful forces conspiring to bring large-scale casino gambling to South Florida — legislators and special-interest groups who readily opened doors for Malaysian and Las Vegas bosses to set up shop in town, as if approval of this radical change to our economy and way of life was a done deal – lost a significant round, and they lost early in their run through the Florida House."
By most assessments, the bill that would have brought three mega casino gambling resorts to Miami-Dade and Broward died Friday in the House Business and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee — and that should be the end of an issue that threatened to irrevocably change the landscape and erode our quality of life, particularly in downtown Miami."Mega-casino gambling is dead – or is it?"
But breathe only a little easier. Bill sponsors won’t let the issue die.
When he couldn’t get the majority of votes he needed, Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, asked the committee to postpone the vote, hoping for a chance to revive the bill when the Senate takes up a similar proposal sponsored by Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Ft. Lauderdale.
A postponement would keep the issue, as the press put it, and pardon the terrible analogy, “on life support.” But luckily, House Rules chairman Rep. Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral, all but killed the bill when he quickly issued a statement saying that as long as he’s chairman he won’t allow the measure to be revived.
“Today’s decision by the House Business and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee to postpone a vote on a bill that would usher in the largest gambling expansion in state history means the issue is dead,” Aubuchon said.
The legislator went further and pronounced the bill’s certain death a “resounding victory for those of us who have opposed this assault on Florida’s family friendly economy.”
Exhale, yes, but still, just a little.
Those who aspire for better and more diverse choices of job creation in our cities can’t afford to take a breather, because Fresen and Bogdanoff are not giving up and neither are the casino operators who have their eye on Miami’s appeal to the international glamour crowd and on its role as the gateway to the Americas.
Immediately, casino gambling proponents and supporters vowed to re-group and return, looking to perfect their moves, deal other cards, and play another round of legislative poker, if not later in this session then in 2013.
"Stronger turnout four years ago"
"Turnout in last week's Republican presidential primary dropped more than 14 percent from Florida's 2008 GOP primary. Part of the reason for the stronger turnout four years ago was a property tax relief initiative that drew voters who were not especially interested in the presidential contest. Also, any lack of enthusiasm for the candidates this year might be because of the 10 days of overwhelmingly negative TV ads."
Mitt Romney trounced Newt Gingrich in Florida, of course, but those turnout numbers show one bright spot for the former House speaker: Turnout actually increased from four years ago in the mostly rural, North Florida counties won by Gingrich, according to Michael McDonald, a professor at George Mason University who runs the United States Elections Project to track election data."Republican voter turnout in Florida primary speaks volumes".
The Orlando Sentinel editors: "Is state government more beholden to the billboard industry than the taxpayers? We'll find out. In a report released last week, a Tallahassee grand jury found that the Florida Department of Transportation had illegally issued permits for a billboard company to cut more than 2,000 state-owned trees without compensating the public. The company targeted the trees to clear the view from Interstate 10 of more than 100 of its signs. How thoughtful." "Billboard lackeys".
Rooney and West work it out
George Bennett: "After months of speculating and strategizing about Florida's new congressional map, it took only two brief phone conversations for Republican U.S. Reps. Tom Rooney and Allen West to dramatically rearrange their political plans."
With the Florida Legislature close to finalizing its once- a-decade redrawing of political boundaries, Rooney called West on Friday, Jan. 27, to let him know that he was considering running in a newly drawn rural congressional district.Much more here: "Are Republicans the winners in district reshuffle involving Allen West, Tom Rooney?".
That would leave the Palm Beach County-Treasure Coast district where Rooney lives open for West, who was in the market for a new seat because his Palm Beach-Broward district is being redrawn from one with an even partisan balance to one with a pronounced Democratic tilt. ...
West, who said he prayed and talked with his family about switching districts after getting the initial call from Rooney, was ready to jump at the opportunity.
Less than an hour after Rooney went public last Tuesday with plans to leave District 18 to run in the new District 17, West announced that he would leave his District 22 to run in District 18.
A day after the Rooney and West announcements, former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, a Boca Raton Republican, abandoned his difficult U.S. Senate bid and jumped into the District 22 congressional race with an endorsement from West, who usually declines to back candidates in primaries.
If the Florida Legislature's congressional redistricting plan survives an expected barrage of legal challenges, the maneuvers by Rooney and West should give both Republicans easier reelection campaigns than if they had remained in their current districts.
The moves also put an end to speculation that West might bolt his district to challenge Rooney in a bloody Republican primary.
"A record 210,000 U.S. students are using public funds to attend private K-12 schools, and Florida leads the nation with more than 60,000 of them, a new study reports." "Florida Leads Nation as School Voucher Programs Expand".
It never ends
"In Miami-Dade union fight, a second round looms — soon".
Palm Beachers show Mitt the love
"In the months before Mitt Romney's resounding victory in Tuesday's Florida presidential primary, Palm Beach County business leaders threw their financial support behind the former Massachusetts governor. Fully $1.5 million - nearly 5 percent - of the $30.2 million raised by a pro-Romney "super" political action committee in 2011 came from Palm Beach County donors, according to financial disclosures released last week. " "Palm Beach County business leaders lift Mitt Romney's super PAC".
Mack's attendance problem
"Rep. Connie Mack was in Miami on Friday picking up the endorsement of Jeb Bush Jr., the ex-governor's son. But Mack, R-Fort Myers, was also missing from Washington — and not just on Friday. ... Of the 33 votes this year, Mack has missed 29, according to records. Many of the missed votes are on minor things." "Mack's missed votes".
"GOP candidates declined to disclose their top Florida bundlers"
"The Obama campaign periodically discloses its top fundraising bundlers — people who gather loads of contributions for the campaign ... Unlike the Bush-Cheney campaigns, GOP candidates declined to disclose their top bundlers." "Bundlers for Obama".
"The honor system"
The Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board: "Florida has a 6 percent tax on goods bought from out-of-state retailers — with no "physical presence" in the state — via the Internet or mail. Few Floridians are even aware of the tax, and even fewer pay it because the state allows its residents to make such purchases under the honor system." "Time to tax Internet sales".
"Fasano, Dockery Find Own Prison"
Glenn Marston: "As the 2012 Florida Legislature chewed through bills mid-week, a priority of Gov. Rick Scott and Senate President Mike Haridopolos came before the Senate — prison privatization."
Senate leaders and the governor seek to privatize 26 state prisons and work camps in the southern end of the state. However, a group of Republicans and Democrats opposed to privatization held off the leadership's push Tuesday and Wednesday."Fasano, Dockery Find Own Prison".
Scott made an effort at shaking the opponents loose by calling in Republican Sens. Charlie Dean of Inverness and Steve Oelrich of Gainesville. Both are former sheriffs. Neither warmed up to Scott's private-prison pitch.
As the leaders became more frustrated, punishment seemed likely.
Back in the Senate chamber, three Republican senators in particular stood in the way of Senate Bill 2038, reported the Tampa Bay Times. They are Jack Latvala of Clearwater, Paula Dockery of Lakeland and Mike Fasano of New Port Richey.
At the end of Wednesday, Haridopolos put the privatization effort on pause. Before leaving for the day, however, he stripped Fasano of his chairmanship of the Budget Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations. For more spite, Haridopolos booted Fasano off the subcommittee altogether.
Florida GOPer sues over a "bruise and a small cut"
So much for hating trial lawyers: "According to the [law]suit, Dillard was wearing open-toed sandals, and the Gingrich worker dug his heel 'into [Dillard's] skin, twisting it side-to-side like he was stomping out a cigarette.'" "Windermere Ron Paul supporter sues Newt Gingrich, says security broke his foot".
"Expect an 'unbelievably vicious' campaign in Florida"
Zac Anderson: "Florida’s exceptionally negative and expensive GOP presidential primary could soon give way to an even nastier general election, with experts predicting Category 5-level ad wars. Blame the new super PAC campaign finance groups, Florida’s status as a must-win state, the increasingly poisonous political climate and the simple fact that negative advertising works."
Buried by an onslaught of negative advertising before Florida’s primary, Newt Gingrich saw a nine-point lead in the polls evaporate in little more than a week, and he ultimately suffered a double-digit loss. ..."Expect more negative ads as general election nears".
Tallahassee political consult Rick Wilson said he expects an “unbelievably vicious” campaign in Florida in the general election.
“I think it will be almost 100 percent negative,” Wilson said. “It’s going to be a bar fight.”
An unprecedented 92 percent of the political ads leading up to last Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary qualified as negative attacks, CMAG says.
Political experts say the ratio is usually closer to 40 percent negative and 60 percent positive.
Even more telling, 100 percent of the ads run by the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future were attack ads. ...
“If there was a market test for super PACs, we just saw the full measure in Florida,” said Adam Goodman, one of the state’s top political ad makers. “The primary will embolden people who want to use super PACs because they were clearly effective. They were a major deal.”
"Tax money used to support agenda of business group"
"A $50,000 payment to the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce is drawing fire from an array of critics who wonder why tax money was used to support the agenda of a business group."
The money, from taxpayer-funded Workforce Central Florida, financed the work of a chamber-led effort called Open for Business: The Central Florida Coalition for Growth & Prosperity."Did tax money go to lobbying? Jobs agency's $50K to chamber draws flak".
One of its primary goals was to identify and eliminate "regulatory barriers" to economic growth. The coalition took $50,000 last year — a third of its total budget — from Workforce Central Florida, the region's jobs agency.
"Raft of significant legislation in play"
Aaron Deslatte: "never underestimate the election-year pull for legislators to deliver durable benefits to their constituencies, lobbyists and campaign donors. Approaching the midpoint of the session, there is a raft of potentially — or symbolically — significant legislation in play. Here's a sampling:"
•A bill pushed by Verizon Communications Inc., Comcast Corp. and other big telecom companies to exempt a host of digital items from the communications tax (HB 809 by Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa) is moving. ..."Legislature takes up hot-button issues amid budget, redistricting".
•On the consumer front, Citizens Property Insurance Corp. would lose some of its power to pass off big losses after a monster hurricane, under HB 1127 by Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula. ...
But the House also passed another bill, HB 245, allowing less-regulated "surplus lines" companies — which often charge more and cover less — to start taking homeowners out of Citizens. Homeowners who want to avoid this would have to "opt out" of being taken out. ...
•House Health and Human Services Quality Chairman John Wood, R-Winter Haven, advanced another bill (HB 7091) that would strip from health-insurance policies the currently mandated coverage for mental-health conditions, autism, cleft palates, bone-marrow transplants for children and other diseases. Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Chamber, the Florida Insurance Council and life-insurance agents were backing it.
Democratic Reps. Mia Jones of Jacksonville, Scott Randolph of Orlando and Elaine Schwartz of Hollywood corralled enough votes to restore required coverage for cleft palates, autism and mental health, with the help of lobbying groups for doctors, dentists, pediatricians, the Broward Children's Center and the Dan Marino Foundation.
•Abortion is back. One bill (HB 1327) by Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, would be called the "Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity for Life Act" and ban abortions performed because of a "child's sex or race." Voting-rights groups such as the League of Women Voters are objecting to the name.
•Lastly, the insurance lobby tried to water down annuities reforms pushed by former Democratic Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink to better safeguard seniors from scams. ... The move drew the attention of current CFO Jeff Atwater, and the tougher Florida standards were restored last week at the behest of his office.
"Democratic tilt to longtime Republican hub of Orlando"
"The new political maps the Florida Legislature is advancing could deliver a new Democratic tilt to the longtime Republican hub of Metro Orlando. Although Orange County has shifted Democratic by voter registration during the last decade, it has sent a Republican-heavy delegation to Tallahassee for years, highlighted by current House Speaker Dean Cannon, past Speaker Dan Webster and Senate President Toni Jennings." "Democrats would gain House seats in Orange".
Rubio digs his own dirt
"Sen. Marco Rubio isn't running for anything right now, but that didn't stop him from spending more than $20,000 on a top national research firm to check out his own vulnerabilities. The website BuzzFeed reports that Rubio spent $21,421 for "research consulting" from MB Public Affairs, a well-regarded firm based in Sacramento, Calif." "Rubio's research".