The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "The effort by states controlled by Republicans to make it harder for minorities to vote is hitting some appropriate speed bumps."
The Justice Department has blocked Texas from implementing a new law that requires voters to present picture identification, concluding that Hispanic voters would be disproportionately hurt. Earlier this month, the department told a three-judge district court that it also opposes key provisions of Florida's recent election law changes because minority voters will be adversely affected."For Florida's 2011 election law changes, state officials withdrew their application for preclearance before the Justice Department and went to court. They slowed down a process that they now say needs to speed up and proceed without a trial. But a trial is essential to fully probing the new law's impact. And the delay is Florida's fault."
Three sections of the new law under review would damage the voting rights of minorities, and in each case the Justice Department is opposing preclearance before the court."U.S. dismantling voter roadblocks". See also "" and "".
One section puts burdensome requirements on voter registration groups and imposes fines when a completed voter registration form is not submitted to the state within 48 hours, as opposed to 10 days. That led organizations such as the League of Women Voters to suspend voter registration efforts. Minorities are more likely to register to vote through community-based drives.
Another section cuts early voting days from 14 to eight and bars early voting on the Sunday before an election, when African-Americans are disproportionately likely to cast ballots. There also is a provision that makes voters use a provisional ballot rather than a regular ballot if they moved between counties without updating their address with elections officials. This disadvantages those who tend to move around, such as renters and people with low incomes, a demographic also correlated to minorities.
Argenziano loses Round One in party switch case
"A judge upheld the party loyalty oath required by Florida's new election law on today, rejecting a challenge from former Public Service Commissioner Nancy Argenziano."
The law is preventing Argenziano, who also once was a Republican state senator, from running for Congress as a Democrat."Judge rejects election law challenge, upholds party loyalty oath". See also "Leon County Judge Upholds 'Charlie Crist Law' on Party Jumping by Argenziano" and "Court rules Argenziano cannot run for state House as a Democrat".
Candidates must swear they have not been members of another party for 365 days before they qualify in June. That makes it too late for her to switch from the Independent Party of Florida, which she joined after quitting the GOP.
“That period of time is not something that is unreasonable,” said Circuit Judge James Shelfer. He cited Florida Supreme Court rulings dating back to 1948 that upheld similar “disaffiliation” requirements of up two years before an election.
Prior to the latest change, the time limit was six months before the general election. The new law was passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature and went into effect last May, giving potential candidates less than a month to switch parties.
"Stearns argues with women over birth control"
"During a recent town hall meeting, Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala, argued with a group of young women over a new mandate from the federal government requiring health insurance companies to cover birth control as preventative care. During the debate, he argued that birth control is not a part of health care, telling one woman that she was 'missing the point' when she argued otherwise." "VIDEO: Cliff Stearns argues with women during town hall over birth control".
That ain't really saying much
"Septic tank legislation, state permitting changes and millions of dollars for Everglades restoration and land-buying capped off a relatively under-the-radar session for environmental issues. Despite being overshadowed by insurance, redistricting and higher education issues, among others, environmental groups say they had a better session than last, with both legislative leaders and Gov. Rick Scott being more open to their input." "Environmental Groups Say 2012 Session Better than '11".
R-Umatilla will try again
"State Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, the sponsor of a controversial bill aimed at restricting the 'application of foreign law' (specifically Sharia law) in courts in Florida, says he will bring the bill back next year." "Sponsor of anti-Sharia law bill says it’s coming back next year".
Republican money sank Sink
"Political committees that helped drive the election of Florida Gov. Rick Scott two years ago were among the biggest independent spenders in the nation, according to a report Thursday by the nonpartisan National Institute on Money in State Politics. "
Scott's Let's Get to Work committee, heavily financed by cash from his wife, Ann, spent $17.5 million in 2010, second only to the Republican Governors' Association's $26.5 million that cycle. While Let's Get to Work confined its spending to Florida, the RGA cash was scattered across key battleground states."Florida political committees among nation's top spenders, report shows".
Two other Florida committees also were included in the institute's national top 10 of spenders.
Both opposed Scott with fierce television spots and mailers during the GOP primary, but once Scott defeated Republican rival Bill McCollum, the cash and attack ads from these committees were aimed at Democratic rival Alex Sink.
The Florida First Initiative spent $6 million in 2010. The committee, led by Alachua County Republican Chairman Stafford Jones, ran television spots accusing Scott of profiting from the "largest Medicare fraud in American history," before becoming friendly toward him.
During the primary, Florida First Initiative received $1.1 million from the Florida Liberty Fund, a committee associated with House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park.
The Liberty Fund also adjusted its aim after the primary, raising money from Florida corporations now intent on defeating Sink.
The third Florida big-spending committee cited in the institute's findings, the Freedom First Committee, was tied to Senate President Mike Haridopolos and raised $3.6 million in 2010. It, too, went from Scott enemy to ally.
Jebbite denounces "Mormon religion"
Drooling Jebbite, Rev. O'Neal Dozier, the fellow who declared Jebbie Bush "the greatest governor ever", is at it again:
The Rev. O'Neal Dozier has frequently warned about the threats he sees from abortion, gays and radical Islam."Pompano pastor calls Mormon Church 'racist,' calls on Romney to renounce religion".
On Monday, he denounced the Mormon Church and demanded that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney "renounce his racist Mormon religion."
Dozier is the honorary Florida chairman for Rick Santorum, who is Romney's principal opponent for the Republican presidential nomination. He spoke Monday from the sanctuary of his church, the Worldwide Christian Center — the same place Santorum spoke nine days before the Florida primary.
He said his Monday comments had nothing to do with Santorum. Dozier said he wanted to warn people that nominating Romney for president "would widen the racial divide" in America because "the Republican Party would be viewed as a racist political party."
Nancy Smith has "every confidence the governor will veto HB 5301, if not swiftly, at least emphatically."
This bill was the thief that came in the night."Gov. Scott, Stay Consistent, Veto Flawed Medicaid Bill".
HB 5301 tiptoed into the Senate chamber in the 12th hour of a 13-hour session, on the last day the 2012 Legislature convened.
In all of 28 minutes -- counting reading the bill and voting on it -- the Senate rammed through legislation that will force 67 Florida counties to pay tens of millions of dollars in bills created mostly by a chronically error-plagued Medicaid billing system -- a system that duplicates and misdirects bills and requires that virtually every county employ at least one full-time worker to validate claims.
Meanwhile, "The Florida Association of Counties calls it a video letter, but it looks and sounds like a campaign ad. The association on Thursday released the 60-second message urging Gov. Rick Scott to veto a bill that would require counties to pay more into the Medicaid system." "Florida counties send Rick Scott video letter urging veto". See also "Sarasota County urges Scott to veto Medicaid bill".
"Democrats Seek to Turn CD 16 From Red to Blue"
"Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan likes his re-election chances in a redrawn west coast district that encompasses 96 percent of his current constituents. And why not? They sent him back to Washington with a healthy 10,000-vote margin two years ago."
This year's Democratic challenger, Keith Fitzgerald, sees an opening in the 16th Congressional District that includes the reliable GOP enclaves of Sarasota and Bradenton."Targeting Rep. Vern Buchanan, Democrats Seek to Turn CD 16 From Red to Blue".
With strong backing from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the former state representative will "offer a stark contrast," said Fitzgerald campaign spokesman Adam Scott.
Where Buchanan is one of the wealthiest members of the House, Fitzgerald is a New College political science professor who will reach out to "blue blazer Republicans," said DCCC spokeswoman Stephanie Formas.
Fitzgerald has been tabbed one of the Democratic Party's elite "Red to Blue" candidates, who are expected to pick up 25 House seats across the country.
Re-thinking crash-course for re-drawing Senate districts
"Groups that backed the Fair Districts reforms and are challenging congressional redistricting plans in court now want the Senate's point-man to re-think his crash-course for re-drawing Senate districts. Lawmakers face a tight timeline for re-drawing the Senate map after the Florida Supreme Court found 8 of the 40 seats violated the new anti-gerrymandering requirements. Senate Reapportionment Chairman Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, has ordered staff to have a first-draft publicly available online by noon Saturday." "Reform group urges senators to re-draw district maps in public". See also "Groups urge Florida Senate to be more open in second try at redistricting".
Bondi fires Medicaid fraud investigations chief
"State Attorney General Pam Bondi demoted the head of her Medicaid fraud investigative unit and fired another top staffer this week, citing reports of poor leadership and employee discontent. Patrick Kelly, the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit’s chief of law enforcement investigations, was fired Wednesday. Unit director David Lewis was also removed from his position, though he will continue to work in the Attorney General’s Office." "Florida attorney general fires chief of Medicaid fraud investigations".
Scott gains power in Tallahassee
"From removing members of local jobs agencies to dishing millions to help businesses relocate to the state, the powers of the governor have increased due to moves by state legislators." "Thanks to lawmakers, Gov. Scott has gained power in Tallahassee".
"The craven roadkill hunt for votes"
Daniel Ruth asks "What is it about the South that compels candidates to attempt their best Li'l Abner impersonation in the craven roadkill hunt for votes?" "Foolishness, served up Southern-fried".
One woman's "no-brainer"...
"A House committee chairwoman said Thursday that her committee's bill to extend the length of water-use permits seemed like a "no-brainer" and she was surprised it died without a vote in the Senate." "'No-brainer' water permitting bill dies in Senate despite backing, leaving House chairman 'speechless'".
"Overt hostility" to choice
"A new report from the Guttmacher Institute shows that, in the past decade, a substantial number of states (including Florida) have shifted from having only a moderate number of abortion restrictions to becoming 'overtly hostile' to abortion rights." "Report: Number of states hostile to abortion rights growing".
Session summary: Education, Justice and Gaming
2012 session summary: " Education" "Justice and Courts" and "Gaming".
Florida's February foreclosure increases
"During the regular legislative session that ended this past week, Florida lawmakers attempted to speed up the foreclosure process this year, but a bill that would have streamlined cases was never taken up by the Senate after passing the House." "Tampa, Miami lead Florida's February foreclosure increases".
Legislature left lengthy to-do
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Legislature left lengthy to-do list for next year".
The Sun Sentinel editors: "Legislature 2012: The Bad" and "The Good".
Florida Supreme Court to decide who sets tuition rates
"The Florida Supreme Court agreed on Thursday to decide who can set tuition and fees at state universities. The justices unanimously said they would hear an appeal from a lower court decision that says the Legislature rather than Board of Governors has that authority." "Florida justices will hear university tuition dispute".