"The Florida Senate on Saturday released its first attempt at fixing its rejected Senate redistricting map with a proposal that protects the territory of all but four Senate incumbents, elects as many as five Hispanics and six African Americans, and retains a solid Republican majority."
The map, released by Senate Redistricting Chairman Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, is a response to a March 9 ruling by the Florida Supreme Court that threw out the Senate map and validated the House map based on the new redistricting standards approved by voters in 2010. But, unlike the first map, the new one drew criticism not only from Democrats but also from Republicans."New Senate district map ticks off both parties". See also "Florida redistricting: Senate tries again with new map", "New Senate plan costs Palm Beach County one district, forces incumbent face-offs" and "Proposed Florida Senate redistricting map released".
“I am very disappointed that the map of the Florida Senate did not include a Hispanic majority district in South Florida,’’ said Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami, chairman of the Miami-Dade legislative delegation. He said that while he had refrained from criticism before, this is the Legislature’s last shot before a court takes control of the redistricting process. “All bets are off.”
Florida legislators have convened a 15-day extraordinary session and have until March 28 to approve a new Senate map. Legislators must reconfigure the political boundaries of the state every 10 years to match the shifts in the population and ensure that every voter is equally represented.
Democrats warned that the Senate’s second map is as flawed as the first one and chastised the exercise as a stalling tactic intended to avoid implementing the new Fair Districts standards.
"When environmental science collides with politics"
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "When environmental science collides with politics, nature all too often winds up on the losing side." "Manatee safeguards fall short".
Bogdanoff may be casualty of revamped districts
"One of South Florida's most prominent political leaders, state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, a Republican who represents coastal Broward and Palm Beach counties, may become the biggest casualty of the once-a-decade revamping of legislative and congressional districts." "Fallout from new districts could end Sen. Bogdanoff's legislative career".
"They walk around here like they own the place"
"Encounters with bears are common in the west Seminole County community because of its proximity to the Wekiva River wildlife corridor, but wildlife officials have determined that some of the bears there have wandered all the way from the Ocala National Forest into congested areas and pose threats to humans."
"They walk around here like they own the place," Gurley said, who actually saw the same bear an hour before the attack outside her ground-floor window."'I could feel her breath on me,' woman says after bear attack".
Update: "Q&A: Attack bear still on the loose -- but why must it die?"
"Like a patient waking from a coma"
"Pasco County's Democratic Party is like a patient waking from a coma. Two months into the regime of new Democratic Executive Committee Chairman Lynn Lindeman, members are feeling energized again." "Democrats feel new energy".
Congressional maps trial fast tracked
"The state Democratic Party and a coalition of voter groups hoping to invalidate the boundaries of Florida's 27 congressional districts will be allowed to make their case during a trial next month. But whether a judge will rule on the maps before the November elections remains up in the air." "Challenge of congressional maps won't be delayed".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "The gist of the Legislature's argument is that the courts can't decide the case in time for federal election qualifying that opens June 4 and closes June 8. As lawyers for the House and Senate claimed: 'Right now, there are people who want to run for office. There are supporters who want to go door-to-door, raise money, gather ballot-placement petitions, and otherwise support their preferred candidates.'" "Legislature plays stall ball".
Lobbyist takes the reins
"Ken Detzner wasn’t looking for a new job, but Gov. Rick Scott gave him one anyway."
On a day when Detzner stopped by the governor’s office on a routine lobbying mission, Scott asked him to replace Kurt Browning, who returned to his native Pasco County to run for superintendent of schools."New Florida state secretary takes over at critical time".
For Detzner, there’s also a sense of deja vu in his new job: He briefly ran the agency a decade ago under former Gov. Jeb Bush, when it was evolving from an elected Cabinet post to an appointed one.
Conservative agenda in the courts
"For the second consecutive year, the conservative agenda of Florida lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott appears likely to be settled in a courtroom."
Critics — who have sued to stop 14 laws passed by Republicans within the past year — are preparing to challenge at least two more bills in 2012. One would allow prayer at mandatory school functions. The other would require random drug testing of state employees."Suits pile up against new laws".
Both measures, critics say, violate federal law and further expose the Republicans' propensity for legislative overreach. The governor's office says the legal challenges are routine for any administration. ...
Florida also is defending a law legislators say is designed to prevent voter fraud. The law requires voters to present a photo ID and enforces strict penalties for errors made when registering voters.
Critics say voter fraud is rare (there were 14 cases recorded in 2011), and accuse lawmakers of intentionally disenfranchising poor and minority voters.
Another law that bars doctors from asking patients if they own guns is also pending in the U.S. District Court's 11th Circuit. In September, federal Judge Marcia Cooke sided with physicians against the state, which quickly appealed.
Daniel Vice, an attorney for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said the law is so clearly unconstitutional the state will likely be on the hook for all attorney's fees, which could run into the millions of dollars.
"Social media can level the playing field", Really?
"In Tallahassee, money and influence often rule the day. But, as a huge fight over a controversial education bill proved, social media can level the playing field." "Moms flex muscles — and Twitter fingers — in Tallahassee. And they win".
"Fog-headed explanation, which not even Cheech could explain to Chong"
Carl Hiaasen: "Among its dubious achievements this year, the Florida Legislature passed a law authorizing random drug tests for state workers."
Guess who’s exempt? Lawmakers themselves."Let’s hear from its proud sponsor,"
So now the clerk down at the DMV gets to pee in a cup — but not the knuckleheads in Tallahassee who control $70 billion in public funds.
Whom do you think is more dangerous to the future of Florida?
In the session that just ended, the Legislature jacked up tuition on state college students while creating a new university to placate one cranky senator. It threw more than 4,400 state workers out of their jobs while handing out more than $800 million in tax break to businesses.
Clearly, legislators are impaired. Is it meth? Coke? Mushrooms?
We’ll never know.
Rep. Jimmie Smith of Lecanto, which is near Inverness, which is sort of near Wildwood. Smith’s Web page says he’s a "security officer" who is retired from the Army. He has been in the Legislature about 18 months."Based on that fog-headed explanation, which not even Cheech could explain to Chong, Smith’s urine should be the first to get screened."
"This is not to do drug testing because they’re state workers," he said. "This is to do drug testing for one problem: Drugs in Florida."
The new law would allow state agencies to randomly test up to 10 percent of their workers every three months. Failing one test can get you fired; the present law requires treatment after the first positive urine screen.
An amendment that would have included drug-testing the governor and lawmakers was indignantly rejected.
"Political theater," whined Rep. Smith. "It was found to be unconstitutional to drug-test elected officials because it prevents us, as citizens, from having that First [sic] Amendment right."
He was attempting to reference a 1997 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a Georgia law requiring political candidates — not just elected officials — to take drug tests. The ruling wasn’t based on the First Amendment but on the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure."Surprise — lawmakers turn down free drug test offer".
It’s the same constitutional provision at the core of multiple legal challenges to Scott’s drug-testing initiatives. While private companies may screen employees whether or not there is cause or reasonable suspicion, the judiciary often takes a dim view when government tries that.
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "If evidence of impaired judgment were grounds for undergoing drug testing, many Florida politicians would be providing samples at this moment."
The Legislature sent Gov. Scott a bill, which he advocated, to subject 120,000 state employees to random drug tests. Legislators did this even though there is no evidence that state workers are more likely than the general population to be using drugs illegally. They did this even though it will result in expensive lawsuits that the state probably will lose. They did this even though they provided no extra money for the tests. And they did this even while committing the ultimate hypocrisy of exempting themselves from the random drug tests."What were they smoking?"
Democrats overwhelmingly opposed the bill. Republicans overwhelmingly favored it. ...
State workers have gone years without raises, seen their pay docked for new contributions to the retirement system and lived under the threat of layoffs because of budget cuts. But the state can afford to randomly test up to 10 percent of workers every three months at a potential cost of $1.9 million?
"Trampling on little guy again"
Stephen L. Goldstein points out that Florida "has all the money in the world to hand out to its favored cronies of the 1 percent. The Legislature just gave Gov. Rick Scott a virtual free hand to dole out $100 million to 'job-creating' businesses of his choosing, even though a state audit found that such corporate welfare is not worth it."
Florida nevertheless "tramples on the private-property rights of the 99 percent, counting on their not having the resources and the staying power to fight it." "Florida trampling on little guy again".
"Picking consumers' pockets"
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Only in Tallahassee is it considered acceptable to pick consumers' pockets and profit from a suspect business plan."
The Florida Legislature adjourned without seriously reviewing a flawed 2006 law that allows electric utilities to bill customers for nuclear plants that may never be built. A financing scheme that initially seemed plausible has proven to be terribly unfair, leaving Progress Energy customers with more than $1.1 billion in bills and a real possibility of nothing to show for their money. For legislative leaders to not respond — particularly in these tight financial times — is irresponsible."A nuclear option that blasts consumers".
Rubio strides national political stage
"Many Republicans are worried about the presidential primary dragging on for weeks or more, a battle that has already inflicted wounds. Not U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio." "Marco Rubio on Newt, Rush and the veepstakes".
"'Parent trigger' is sure to be back next year"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Gov. Scott praised the 2012 Legislature - and, by extension himself - for budgeting a $1 billion increase for public schools. He fudged a little; the increase is $843.9 million."
And schools aren't back to even, since the governor and the Legislature cut $1.3 billion from public education the previous year. ..."Trigger cocked in 2012?".
On a 20-20 tie, the Senate blocked the "parent-trigger" law that would have usurped local school board control of "failing" schools if 51 percent of parents signed a petition. Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, who sponsored the legislation, was asked for evidence that this gimmick had worked after California enacted it. She responded, generically, that research shows parental involvement helps. Lobbyists resorted to the same empty talking point because there is, in fact, no evidence that "parent-triggered" school takeover works.
Once again, for-profit charter schools stood to benefit since a prominent option in the bill would have let them move in. Once again, "parent trigger" is sure to be back next year.
Kingsley likes the "trickle down"
Kingsley Guy is worried about those scary folks with advanced college degrees: "Skepticism is warranted with any academic study. The statistics might be accurate, but the interpretation flawed."
Take the study titled: "Under Attack: Florida's Middle Class and the Jobs Crisis," co-published by the Demos organization and the Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy. ... Stephen L. Goldstein is quite taken by the study, which isn't surprising given it's liberal bent. But allow me to present a differing perspective on a couple of its points.Oh no, Kingsley actually thinks Florida's huge gap between rich and poor somehow
The study says that Florida has one of the biggest gaps between rich and poor in the country. So, is this a reflection of an attack on Florida's middle class, as the study implies?
helps the middle class. Florida's sensible tax policies and sub-tropical climate attract retired people. The net worth of the elderly is higher than that of any other age group, so it's natural that the wealth gap would be wider in Florida, relative to other states."No, Florida middle class helped by wealthy residents' investments". Related: "Stephen Goldstein: Florida economy a casualty of Republicans' war on middle class".
With no personal income tax, no estate tax, and no municipal income taxes, a lot of extremely rich people choose Florida as their residence both before and after they retire.
"False" claims in GOP attack ad
William March reports that a "conservative interest group, the 60 Plus Association, launched a $3.5 million television ad campaign targeting Nelson and four other senators in an attack on President Barack Obama's national health care reform initiative, the Affordable Care Act."
The ad, with Pat Boone narrating, says the plan includes "a board of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats" who "can ration care and deny certain Medicare treatments.""That charge, concerning Medicare's Independent Payment Advisory Board, is false, according to the nonpartisan Factcheck.org, which also described what it called other inaccuracies and distortions in the ad."
"Puerto Rican population exploding in Florida"
Adam C. Smith: "The Puerto Rican population is exploding in Florida, particularly in the Orlando area, and increasingly Republicans and Democrats alike see those voters as the key to winning America's biggest battleground state." "Puerto Rico a force in Florida voting".
"Obama's re-election campaign is quietly trying to take control in Florida"
"While Republican presidential candidates dig in for what has become a long, bitter fight for the GOP nomination, Barack Obama's re-election campaign is quietly trying to take control in Florida." "Obama campaign quietly revs up push to win Florida".
LeMieux releases blistering ad attacking Mack
"George LeMieux fired the first broadcast shot in the U.S. Senate race Wednesday, a blistering radio ad attacking his opponent in the Republican primary, Connie Mack IV." "LeMieux attack ad targets Mack".
"Hurdles for voters"
The SarasotaHerald-Tribune editors warn that "the country should guard against voter ID laws that unfairly discourage some citizens from exercising their rights. Fortunately, the U.S. Justice Department blocked two such measures recently: laws in South Carolina and Texas requiring all voters to show a government-issued photo ID." "Bureaucratic hurdles for voters".
Not "the typical underhanded corruption"
The Miami Herald editorial board points out that Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado's campaign violations were not "the typical underhanded corruption too often seen here in the Magic City." "Lesson learned".
FRS case goes straight to the Florida Supreme Court
"An appeal of a ruling that struck down a requirement that public employees contribute to their pensions is going to the Florida Supreme Court. The 1st District Court of Appeal on Friday agreed to send the state's appeal directly to the justices."
That was [another] victory for the Florida Education Association and other public employee unions that challenged the new law."Appeal of pension law ruling going to Florida Supreme Court". See also "Challenge of Florida's forced pension contribution law goes to Supreme Court".
It was [another] defeat for the state, which wanted the appellate court to make its own ruling. ...
A trial judge ruled that the law violates employees' property, contract and collective bargaining rights.
"Session ended without lawmakers doing a thing to help vulnerable elderly"
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "No rational lawmaker could have doubted the need to better protect residents of Florida's assisted-living facilities."
A Miami Herald investigation last year documented lax oversight and horrifying abuse."On abuse of the elderly, the House looks away".
Yet the session ended without lawmakers doing a thing to help vulnerable elderly and mentally ill residents of the homes.
Second amendment stoopid
"Police: Boy, 9, accidentally shoots cousin".
Budget cuts will delay civil cases
"Divorces are just one of the many types of civil cases that county clerks of courts say will almost certainly be delayed in 2012-2013 because of an unexpected $31 million cut lawmakers handed to the clerks in the legislative session that ended last week." "Court clerks predict delays in civil, traffic filings due to budget cuts".