Since 2002, daily Florida political news and commentary


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Welcome To Florida Politics

Thanks for visiting. On a semi-daily basis we scan Florida's major daily newspapers for significant Florida political news and punditry. We also review the editorial pages and political columnists/pundits for Florida political commentary. The papers we review include: the Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Naples News, Sarasota Herald Tribune, St Pete Times, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Tallahassee Democrat, and, occasionally, the Florida Times Union; we also review the political news blogs associated with these newspapers.

For each story, column, article or editorial we deem significant, we post at least the headline and link to the piece; the linked headline always appears in quotes. We quote the headline for two reasons: first, to allow researchers looking for the cited piece to find it (if the link has expired) by searching for the original title/headline via a commercial research service. Second, quotation of the original headline permits readers to appreciate the spin from the original piece, as opposed to our spin.

Not that we don't provide spin; we do, and plenty of it. Our perspective appears in post headlines, the subtitles within the post (in bold), and the excerpts from the linked stories we select to quote; we also occasionally provide other links and commentary about certain stories. While our bias should be immediately apparent to any reader, we nevertheless attempt to link to every article, column or editorial about Florida politics in every major online Florida newspaper.


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The Blog for Saturday, March 31, 2012

Rubio balances TeaBaggery with role of GOP Hispanic hood ornament

    "GOP elected officials, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., are working on 'a conservative-Republican alternative' to the DREAM Act, in an effort to reach out to Latino voters before the November presidential election."
    The DREAM Act, which was first introduced in Congress 10 years ago, would grant those who entered the U.S. illegally before the age of 16 conditional permanent resident status for a period of six years, after which they would be eligible to become legal permanent residents if they obtain at least an associate-level college degree or serve in the military for two years.
    "Rubio tells the National Review in an interview published Friday that 'Democrats and the Left are terrified of losing this issue,' and that they do not want to solve but rather use it as a political tool."

    Not surprisingly, Rubio - a man of exceedingly few accomplishments - has
    no "specifics to announce yet," about his alternative DREAM Act. "This stuff has to be done responsibly. We’re working toward that and hopefully very soon," Rubio told the paper.

    Rubio, who still does not support the DREAM Act, is drafting what earlier this month he called a a bipartisan solution that "does not reward or encourage illegal immigration by granting amnesty, but helps accommodate talented young people like Daniela [Pelaez], who find themselves undocumented through no fault of their own."

    Pelaez, a Miami high school valedictorian whose order of deportation set off a series of protests in South Florida and other parts of the U.S., met with Rubio. She has been granted another two years in the U.S. by immigration authorities while her case makes its way through immigration courts.
    "Rubio, GOP drafting ‘conservative-Republican alternative’ to the DREAM Act". Meanwhile, "Rubio gives Romney a tea party boost".

    Florida Birther lawsuit

    "New Birther lawsuit filed in Florida" ("a story published on the right-wing blog World Net Daily suggests [the plaintiff in the lawsuit] is being helped by Larry Klayman, an attorney and the founder of Freedom Watch USA.")

    "Choice between political party and ethnic identity"?

    "When Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature created a new congressional district in Central Florida, the intent was to enable election of the region's first-ever Hispanic U.S. representative — someone who would most likely be a Democrat — while protecting GOP incumbents in surrounding seats. But the potential race emerging for that new seat in Congress could turn into a choice between political party and ethnic identity." "Congressional race could pit political vs. ethnic identity".

    What's a Fla-bagger to do?

    "Scott presented with bill protecting health of incarcerated pregnant women".

    "A dose of the narrow-minded philosophy [GOPers] helped finance"

    The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "While House Republicans were passing a federal budget this week that is going nowhere, they were also passing a temporary highway bill that gets the nation nowhere. They have enough time to send a political message but not enough to figure out how to build roads and keep the economy moving."

    The business interests that backed many of these tea party Republicans as candidates now are frustrated by the inaction on the highway bill. But they are getting a dose of the narrow-minded philosophy they helped finance and elect, and they should remember this November that elections have consequences. For this shortsightedness in Washington, Floridians can thank their Republican House members, all of whom (except Connie Mack, who did not vote) supported the extension. Gear up for the same games in June.
    "House GOP dithers on roads, recovery".

    Justice Department gets latest Senate redistricting plan

    "The Florida House, Senate and Attorney General sent the U.S. Justice Department the latest state Senate redistricting plan Friday in a bid to assure federal review is completed by the June 4 start of candidate qualifying."

    The redrawn Senate map, approved by the Legislature in a special session that ended Tuesday, still must go to the state Supreme Court, which has 30 days to review the plan. Justices ruled the initial Senate redistricting plan was unconstitutional, forcing the 15-day special session.

    If the Supreme Court doesn't approve the Legislature's second attempt at a Senate map, the justices could decide to draw the districts themselves.

    Federal officials have their own 60-day window to review the proposed map. But attorneys for the Legislature and Attorney General Pam Bondi are clearly hoping the Justice Department's work can overlap with that of Florida's high court.
    "Florida sends Senate maps to U.S. Justice before Supreme Court finishes review".

    "Lift Cuba travel ban"

    The Sun Sentinel editorial board: "Lift Cuba travel ban".

    "Amateur night with guns"

    Randy Schultz: "Florida's stand-your-ground law, which is at the heart of the Trayvon Martin controversy, is based on this premise: Under pressure, amateurs will use guns like professionals." "Schultz: 'Stand-your-ground' makes for amateur night with guns".

    Meanwhile, "whether it’s those on the right or left, each side has attached itself to the Trayvon Martin case to score political points." "Trayvon Martin’s shooting case draws partisan battle lines". Back at the ranch, "Texas lawyers offer $10,000 for George Zimmerman's legal defense".

    "State's growth rate lags the country's growth rate"

    Rick Scott's job creation promises continue to fall flat, as "U.S. jobs are growing at a rate 50 percent higher than Florida".

    Also, "a shrinking labor pool helps explain why Florida has narrowed the gap with the national unemployment rate (flat at 8.3 percent the last two months) even though state's growth rate lags the country's growth rate."

    In the last 12 months, Florida has added 72,300 jobs for a growth rate of about 1 percent, according to a Florida Department of Economic Opportunity analysis released Friday. The United States has added more than 2 million jobs during that span, notching a growth rate of 1.5 percent.

    In other words, U.S. jobs are growing at a rate 50 percent higher than Florida, and February continued the trend.
    "Florida unemployments falls to 9.4 percent" ("Call center hiring in particular is back in vogue").

    "Democrats pointed out that Florida's jobless rate remains higher than the national rate of 8.3 percent and claimed that the state lags in job creation. On an annual basis, the number of jobs in Florida grew by about 1 percent since February 2011. Nationally, job growth was up about 1.5 percent over the same time." "Statewide jobless rate dips to 9.4 percent".

    "If all you hear are crickets, it's understandable"

    The Sun Sentinel editorial board: "Speak up if you're aware Florida has a constitutional amendment protecting the Everglades from pollution. If all you hear are crickets, it's understandable. It shouldn't surprise anyone that this "polluter pays" amendment hasn't done much to help the famed River of Grass. For an issue so important, it's unacceptable this part of Florida law remains so obscure."

    But that's the most troubling finding of an Everglades Foundation study released this week. The report shows 76 percent of the phosphorus entering the Everglades comes from agricultural interests south of Lake Okeechobee, but those polluters only pay 24 percent of the cost of removing the pollution. The rest comes from taxpayers in the form of local, state and federal taxes.
    "Everglades needs "polluter pays"".

    Collins Institute

    The inaptly named Collins Center, in reality a mainstream-conservative "think-tank", has hired "the head of former Sen. Bob Graham’s public policy think tank at the University of Florida to be its new steward and steer the focus back to public policy." "Collins Center names new executive director".

    "Republicans want to exacerbate the nation's yawning income inequality"

    The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Even as Ryan's budget lavishes tax cuts on the rich, it aggressively cuts government help to the middle class and poor and reduces investments in infrastructure and technology. According to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, people earning more than $1 million a year would each receive $265,000 in new tax cuts, with the top marginal tax rate reduced to 25 percent from the current 35 percent. Corporate taxes also would be slashed. Ryan claims new tax cuts would be offset by ending tax deductions and closing loopholes, but he doesn't provide specifics."

    Every Republican member of the House from the Tampa Bay area voted for the measure, including Reps. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor; Richard Nugent, R-Spring Hill; Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland; C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores; and Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota. Rep. Kathy Castor, the area's lone Democrat from Tampa, voted "no." Congressional Republicans want to exacerbate the nation's yawning income inequality while making life harder for those at the bottom. It just goes to show how much elections matter.
    "Budget slashes safety net".

    "Bill surfaced in the final hours"

    "On the last day of the 2012 session, state lawmakers voted to reduce contributions to the retirement accounts of 100,000 public employees, many of whom work in higher education or law enforcement."

    The bill (HB 5005) passed both chambers by wide margins with little discussion and will soon reach Gov. Rick Scott, who said he has not decided whether to sign it.

    The legislation reduces government contributions to employees enrolled in an investment plan, known as a defined contribution plan, as opposed to the traditional pension plan for public employees [which is the subject of the FRS litigation].

    Police officers in the defined contribution plan, who are members of what's known as a "special risk" class, would see the state's contribution drop from 18.3 percent of an employee's salary to 12.3 percent.

    The result is that employees in the plan will have less money available for their retirement than if the change hadn't been made. ...

    The bill passed the House, 82-35, and the Senate, 34-2, on the session's final day.

    Sens. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, and Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, cast the only dissenting votes in the Senate.

    Ring said he could not get "good, clean answers" as to how the bill would affect employees of state universities and colleges who participate in optional retirement programs.

    Fasano, the only Republican in the Legislature who voted no, said the bill surfaced in the final hours, and he wasn't convinced it was in the best interest of public employees.
    "More changes to retirement plans of some state workers could be coming".

    Note: The affected employees are those who opted out of the FRS defined benefit plan.

    Charter madness

    The Florida Independent has reports

    organizations that lobbied to support the Parent Trigger and charter schools bills include the Florida Charter School Alliance, the Florida Coalition of Public School Options, the Foundation for Excellence in Education (led by Jeb Bush), the Foundation for Florida’s Future (also led by Bush), Students First, Parent Revolution, the Heartland Institute and the American Legislative Exchange Council (known as ALEC). Though it claims to be “bi-partisan,” ALEC has political and financial ties with conservative, pro-market groups and the Republican party.

    The Florida Charter School Alliance’s board of directors includes Jim Horne, president of the Horne Group and a former Republican senator; John Kirtley, the Florida corporate tax credit scholarship program founder; and the executive director of former Gov. Bush’s education foundation, Patricia Levesque.

    Diane Ravitch, an education historian [Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary in the George H.W. Bush administration, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution] and a former supporter of the "choice" movement but who now opposes such policies, wrote early this month:
    Race to the Top seems to have catalyzed a national narrative, at least among the mainstream media. The good guys open charter schools and fire bad teachers. The bad guys are lazy teachers who get lifetime tenure just for breathing and showing up. Most evil of all are the unions, who protect the bad teachers and fend off any effort to evaluate them. Anyone who questions the headlong rush to privatization and the blind faith in standardized testing will be smeared as "a defender of the status quo" who has "no solutions."
    Ravitch also points to the Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and many other private funders who continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to support teacher evaluation projects, school vouchers and charter schools.
    "Public education advocates to occupy Department of Education".

    Ravitch's latest: "Schools We Can Envy".

    An election gaffe, "which appears unprecedented in recent Florida history"

    The Palm Beach Post editorial board:

    "Technology fails," Susan Bucher, Palm Beach County's supervisor of elections, declared last week on her office's website. Her aim: to place blame for the devastating error in this month's Wellington village council elections squarely on the software her office uses.

    Since the discovery of the error, in which two losing candidates were mistakenly named winners, Ms. Bucher has emphatically denied that she or her staff had any role in the gaffe, which appears unprecedented in recent Florida history. The problem, she said repeatedly, was malfunctioning software.

    But an investigation by the state Division of Elections is casting doubt on that claim, and voters who have listened to Ms. Bucher for nearly two weeks deflect responsibility for one of the county's worst election blunders should be skeptical.

    The Division of Elections this week said that it had ruled out any problems with the "certification of the voting system" that Ms. Bucher's office used. (The state tests and certifies all election software used by county elections offices.) Then on Friday, state officials released a letter from Dominion Voting, the software company, in which the company said it had ruled out any software error. "It is clear, the company's president wrote, "that the mismatch was not the result of a 'bug.' " He added that the software "acted as designed."

    The company's conclusion is a far cry from the portrait Ms. Bucher attempted to paint when she released a mealy-mouthed statement from Dominion that admitted no actual wrongdoing and attempted to claim it as vindication. In reality, all Dominion has conceded is that the relevant part of its software is confusing and can make it hard to spot errors. This is a serious problem, one that they say will be fixed, but it is very different from being the cause of the error itself.
    "Still no good explanation".

    "Counties could be on hook for $325.5 million"

    "Gov. Scott signs Medicaid billing changes; counties could be on hook for $325.5 million". See also "Florida Association of Counties-Opposed Medicaid Bill Becomes Law".

    Senate to decide punishment

    "The Florida Commission on Ethics on Friday urged the Senate to decide how to punish Sen. Jim Norman of Tampa for not disclosing a $500,000 gift to his wife from a local businessman. The punishment options are a reprimand, fine or removal from office." "Norman case goes to Senate".

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