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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 Thursday, May 03, 2012

Q Poll: Romney Bounces Back In Florida

    Today's Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll: "May 3, 2012 - Romney Bounces Back In Two Of Three Key States, Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll Finds; Obama Widens Lead In Pennsylvania; Ohio, Florida Tied"

    "Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney could be headed for a photo finish in Florida this November, a poll released Thursday shows."
    Forty-four percent of 1,169 Florida voters surveyed by Quinnipiac University between April 25 and May 1 said they'd vote for Romney if the election were now, compared to 43 percent who said they prefer the president. The latest snapshot of voter preferences has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. The new figures were an improvement for Romney, who trailed Obama by 7 percentage points among Florida voters in late March.

    The Connecticut-based polling institute also showed Obama and Romney within the margin of error in Ohio while the president was favored by 47 percent to 39 percent among Pennsylvania voters.

    No one has won the presidency since 1960 without carrying two of the three key swing states. ...

    The new survey shows the sluggish economy working in Romney's favor at the moment with voters in the Sunshine State. Nearly half, 49 percent, said they believed Romney would do a better job handing the economy while 40 percent said Obama would do better.

    And while Obama appears to have strong support among women voters nationally, Quinnipiac's survey showed it much tighter in Florida where the female preferences were almost evenly split.

    Roughly two-thirds of the respondents in all three states believe the economy is in a recession although at least 51 percent in each of the states felt a recovery was underway.

    The poll showed Florida voters also support repeal of the 2010 health care reform legislation supported by Obama by a 51 to 38 percent margin and oppose the U.S. military's presence in Afghanistan by better than a two-to-one margin although they approved of Obama's handling of the situation and the pace that he has started to withdraw troops from the war-torn central Asian nation.
    "Poll: Florida up for grabs in November election". See also "Poll: Florida up for grabs in November election".

    Background: "This compares to the results of a March 28 Swing State Poll by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University showing President Obama ahead of Gov. Romney 49 - 42 percent in Florida, 47 - 41 percent in Ohio and 45 - 42 percent in Pennsylvania."

    Scott unsigns his Cuba-crackdown bill "signing statement"

    "Scott has started retreating from a controversial statement that a Cuba-crackdown bill he signed the day before was unenforceable."

    In a written statement, Scott now acknowledges that the law will go into effect. And he reiterated his support for it — even though he thinks it might not survive a legal challenge.

    "Constitutional lawyers have told me that this legislation will be challenged in court. I signed the bill regardless of that fact, and it will become a state law on July 1, 2012," he wrote. "As Governor, it is my sworn duty to uphold the laws of the state and I will meet any challenge to this law in court as necessary."

    Scott’s move was a peace offering of sorts to Miami’s Cuban-American lawmakers, who were incensed Tuesday when he signed the bill into law at the Freedom Tower — only to issue a letter afterward that suggested the law is unconstitutional.
    Scott’s original letter
    blindsided the members of Congress and the state Legislature — all Republicans — who were never told he would espouse that position. They said the state law was fine and that Scott’s letter potentially undermined it because it armed opponents with a potent legal argument if and when they sue.

    "It’s unfortunate this very ill-conceived statement muddies the waters," U.S. Rep Mario Diaz-Balart said earlier Wednesday, before Scott’s latest statement came out.

    And regardless of what Scott said in his signing statement, Diaz-Balart and others said, the law would go into effect anyway — an opinion Scott confirmed Wednesday. Still, the governor’s letter hurt almost as much as a veto.
    "The governor could have let the bill become law without his signature. Or he could have publicly shared his opinions about the bill’s constitutionality at the signing event. Earlier in the day, he mentioned his concerns on Spanish-language radio."
    But the throng of politicians eager to play up the crackdown law in an election year apparently did not tune into the radio shows. Instead, they saw the governor sign the bill, leave the Freedom Tower, and then blindside them with the fine-print signing statement. ...

    Moments after the press conference, Scott issued the signing statement. And then came the anger.

    Perplexed state lawmakers who backed the bill went on Spanish-language radio to question the governor’s letter. A frustrated Congressman David Rivera declared himself ready to take the governor to court. One blogger in Washington, D.C., referred to the governor as "slick Rick." Another wrote, in an open letter to Scott on a Miami blog, "You duped us."

    On Wednesday, Garcia, the bill’s Senate sponsor, sent state Senate President Mike Haridopolos a letter asking him to "examine the constitutionality" of the governor’s signing statement.
    "Gov. Scott retreats from statement calling anti-Cuba law unenforceable".

    Andres Oppenheimer writes that "the oddest thing about Florida’s new state law to punish foreign companies that do business in Cuba is not that it is an election season gimmick by Republican lawmakers to win Cuban-American votes, nor that it is likely to cost taxpayers a lot before it ends up defeated in the courts. It’s that it would actually help Cuba’s dictatorship."
    [E]ven some high-profile Cuban-American Republicans, such as J. Antonio "Tony" Villamil, dean of Saint Thomas University’s School of Business and former U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce in the George W. Bush Administration, think that the new law is counter-productive.

    Villamil, who also served as Florida director of economic development under former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, did not mince words: he told me that the new law is "a black eye on Florida."

    "First, this law is unconstitutional, because it violates the federal power to conduct foreign policy," he said. "Second, it violates World Trade Organization rules that say that you cannot discriminate against a foreign company, and create second-class companies."

    "Third, it hurts Florida’s business climate," Villamil said. After all these "trade missions that Florida and the governor have taken around the world, including to Brazil, telling foreign companies that we welcome them in Florida, we are excluding them from meaningful state and local contracts."

    "And it doesn’t do anything to help the freedom of Cuba," he said. "It allows Castro to have a propaganda point and say, 'Look how hostile Cuban exiles are against our country.'"

    My opinion: The new Florida state law, if enacted, will boomerang on its sponsors for one additional reason. It would encourage other U.S. states to pass foreign policy and trade laws.

    That would not only make U.S. foreign policy even more dependent on local constituencies that push for their own economic agendas ahead of the national interest, but would encourage many U.S. states to pass laws giving tax breaks or other special privileges to firms that have affiliated companies doing business in Cuba.

    To score points with Cuba’s regime, Iowa, Kansas and other farm states that are eager to increase their already significant exports to Cuba would try to promote their business ties with companies doing business on the island. Cuba’s octogenarian military rulers would be the biggest winners
    "Florida law against Cuba may help Cuba".

    "You never know when a citizen might need a concealed handgun amid those pesky protesters"

    Fred Grimm: "Don’t come messing around the Republican National Convention with an 'air rifle, air pistol, paintball rifle, explosive blasting cap, switchblade, hatchet, ax, slingshot, blackjack, metal knuckles, nunchakus, mace, iron buckle, ax handle, chain, crowbar, hammer, shovel or any club or bludgeon.'"

    All this along with "any other instrumentality used or intended to be used to cause physical or personal damage."

    Except, of course, for the most obvious instrument intended to cause physical or personal damage.

    The city didn’t prohibit guns.
    "Knives are banned at Tampa’s GOP convention, but guns are OK". See also "Scott refuses Tampa's request to ban guns at RNC", "Gov. Scott won't ban guns during GOP convention in Tampa" and "Gov. Scott won't ban guns during GOP convention in Tampa".

    Meanwhile, "Florida man who couldn’t take his neighbors’ crowing roosters shoots them dead".

    The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "It's an easy laugh line. Carrying lumber, glass bottles and water pistols probably will be banned in downtown Tampa and nearby neighborhoods during the Republican National Convention — but carrying handguns will be just fine."
    To update the old Florida promotional slogan, the rules are still different here. But safety during the convention is a serious issue, and political maneuvering by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Gov. Rick Scott has trumped common sense.

    Here's the lay of the land: The Secret Service will ban concealed weapons in the secure area it will control around the convention site, the Tampa Bay Times Forum, and nearby hotels. Outside that zone will be a larger downtown area controlled by the city, and the Tampa City Council will consider an ordinance today that would temporarily ban a number of potential weapons — from lumber to string. But state law prevents local governments from imposing any local restrictions on firearms. Buckhorn asked Scott to prohibit guns in that larger area, and the governor refused in a letter that could double as a testimonial for the National Rifle Association.
    "Scott accused Buckhorn of wanting to "disarm" citizens and wrote that "an absolute ban" would 'surely violate the Second Amendment.' Scott wrote that the convention is 'just such' a time that the right to carry a gun was the 'most precious and must be protected.' Translation: You never know when a citizen might need a concealed handgun amid those pesky protesters.
    Concealed firearms legally carried by hundreds of thousands of Floridians? Pack 'em if you've got 'em.
    "Gun sense and nonsense".

    "Water quality controversy"

    "With the Legislature having waived approval of rules establishing new phosphorus and nitrogen limits, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is holding workshops to review rules relating to mercury, dissolved oxygen and chemical exposure through fish consumption. Some environmentalists are concerned that DEP will make it easier to comply with pollution rules by simply changing the standards." "DEP moving into new areas of possible water quality controversy".

    Lawmaker warns funding woes could 'erode' quality of state universities

    "Florida's university system would 'erode'"

    "Outgoing House Education Chairman Bill Proctor warned the Higher Education Coordinating Council on Wednesday that the quality of Florida's university system would "erode" if the state does not come up with a way to shore up its funding. Proctor was an architect of a bill recently vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott that would have allowed the state's top research universities to raise tuition to market levels." "Lawmaker warns funding woes could 'erode' quality of state universities".

    Sid's stunt flops

    "Palm Beach County's Republican Party, citing an April 15 report in The Palm Beach Post, has asked three agencies to open an investigation into what caused Circuit Judge Krista Marx to decide against running for state attorney. ... The Post's report described how supporters of Democratic state attorney candidate Dave Aronberg had warned Marx she could face ethics allegations and her husband could face a costly re-election fight if she pursued the job. She decided against running. ... Dinerstein said he sent the letter after a vote of the board of the county's Republican Party. Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Bondi also were asked to investigate but have not responded, Dinerstein said." "Probe sought into judge's decision not to run for state attorney".

    'Yah got a problem with that?

    "Progress Energy wants to nearly double monthly charges for nuclear projects".

    "Largest single tranche bond offering"

    "Citizens Property Insurance Corp. closed on $750 million in wind risk catastrophe bonds on Tuesday, the largest single tranche bond offering of that type to capital markets." "Citizens closes $750 million reinsurance bond, setting record".

    "Mr. Rubio’s plan is creates a kind of permanent second-class status"

    The Washington Post editorial board says its "better late than never": "Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), who is Cuban American and a possible running mate for Mitt Romney, has broached the outlines of what would be a Republican version of the Dream Act. It would extend legal status — but no clear path to citizenship, as Democrats have sought — to young illegal immigrants brought to America by their parents."

    The details aren’t clear, but the danger in Mr. Rubio’s plan is creation of a kind of permanent second-class status. On the other hand, many young people might welcome a route out of the shadows, and the country would certainly benefit from their contributions.

    So far, other Republicans are keeping their distance from Mr. Rubio’s proposal, and the most Mr. Romney has managed is a tepid we'll-think-about-it. Political calculation may push him further. Republican strategists worry that GOP bills designed to hound illegal immigrants in Arizona, Alabama and elsewhere are tilting Hispanics to President Obama in several Western swing states. Mr. Romney himself said as much the other day, fretting that the president’s support among Hispanic voters "spells doom for us."

    If so, Mr. Romney has himself partly to blame, having hailed Arizona’s draconian law as a model for the nation, urged similar measures in the hope that undocumented immigrants will "self-deport" and opposed the Dream Act.
    "A Dream Act that Republicans should take up".

    "Scott's decision to target the group is puzzling"

    "Scott's decision to target the group is puzzling to some legislators because he insisted that the coalition be designated a recipient of state money when he submitted his first budget proposals in 2011. ... The coalition owes its special status largely to former Gov. Jeb Bush, who signed the 2003 law designating it as the sole recipient of state domestic violence money." "Gov. Rick Scott takes aim at domestic violence group salary".


    "Tallahassee lobbying firm Floridian Partners announced Tuesday that Teye Reeves is returning to the firm after working for Florida Chamber of Commerce through two legislative sessions." "Chamber lobbyist returns to Floridian Partners".

    "Anti-freedom travel restrictions that bar most Americans from visiting Cuba"

    Tom Lyons: "One reality rarely mentioned here in Florida is that Castro's heinous travel restrictions also helped limit a dicey U.S. problem:"

    What to do about so many Cubans wanting to "flee Castro" and come to Florida for economic opportunities, especially with so many U.S. citizens already upset about Mexican immigrants arriving in droves for much the same reason, albeit without the public relations advantages inherent in "seeking freedom."

    Even as is, we have the bizarre "wet-foot-dry-foot policy," which applies only to Cubans. It has long had our Coast Guard trying to intercept Cubans at sea to send them back to Cuba before they can set foot on dry U.S. sand, which would entitle them to stay and request permanent resident status.

    So, what happens to that game if the doors really open and Cubans don't have to conspire, hire human smugglers or steal boats to get here?

    I have no idea, and who knows if Cuba will really make major travel-policy changes that open the door widely and let Cubans come this way, and quite possibly stay, legally or not. I remain skeptical of all such news about alleged changes in Cuba.

    If it does happen, I hope the U.S. will take the opportunity to ease our own equally anti-freedom travel restrictions that bar most Americans from visiting Cuba, a ban not imposed on Americans who wanted to visit the former Soviet Union or China.

    Yet every U.S. president and presidential candidate seems terrified that promoting any such change will get them a reaction in South Florida like the one Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen got when he expressed heretical admiration of Castro's longevity in power.

    And so, predicting that local ports could soon be offering cruises to Havana seems even shakier than forecasts of change in Cuba.
    "Cuba travel tweak could affect Florida".

    When is enough, enough?

    "In the eyes of those who run companies, Florida is now the No. 2 best state in which to do business."

    Tom Feeney, Associated Industries of Florida president and CEO, said the state has further to go in reforming personal injury protection auto insurance, even after this year’s successful legislation, and that the tort system remains “too attractive for trial lawyers to go after deep pockets.”

    The state also has to continue to block federal efforts to usurp Florida’s status as a “right to work state.”

    “The Obama administration is trying to undermine the advantages of open labor practices,” Feeney said. “Every day the National Labor Relations Board and Obama are trying to decrease advantages to business. The consequence there is that if Obama is successful, we will not lose jobs to Georgia and Texas, but all 50 states will lose jobs to Latin America and elsewhere.”
    "Florida No. 2 in Eyes of CEOs; Business Leaders Say More Work Is Needed". Meanwhile, "AIF Names Legislature's 2012 Business Champions".

    "'Roll your own' loophole"

    "Florida loses $63M in tobacco tax with 'roll your own' loophole".

    LeMieux grubs for wingnuts

    Kevin Derby: "The two leading Republicans looking to take on incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in November -- Connie Mack and George LeMieux -- looked on Wednesday to showcase their conservative credentials and tie themselves to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the most popular GOP leaders in Florida."

    One of the leading conservatives in the Florida Legislature -- Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala -- announced Wednesday that he is backing former U.S. Sen. LeMieux for the Republican nomination.

    Baxley, who led the Christian Coalition of Florida and represents parts of Marion County, stressed LeMieux’s conservative credentials in his endorsement and played up the fact that former presidential candidate Herman Cain announced Friday that he is backing LeMieux.
    "GOP Senate Hopefuls Spar Over Conservative Credentials".

    "The appearance — at the very least — of impropriety is inescapable"

    The Orlando Sentinel editors point to an Integrity Florida report showing that "Several companies with executives on Enterprise Florida's board have landed millions of dollars in state financial incentives with the help of the agency or been hired as its vendors."

    In a rebuttal to the report, Enterprise Florida argued its board members don't have input on incentive packages, and another agency, the Department of Economic Opportunity, gives them final approval.

    But those board members govern Enterprise Florida. Its CEO serves at their pleasure. And incentive packages don't get out of the starting gate without the agency's help.

    As for awarding contracts to board members' companies, Enterprise Florida says those members excuse themselves from votes and any deals larger than $25,000 are competitively bid. But it's hard to believe personal relationships wouldn't give a board member's company any advantage in winning a contract.

    Under Enterprise Florida's public-private funding model, companies get seats on the board by putting up at least $50,000. But when some of those companies get the agency's help in qualifying for incentives or are hired as contractors, the appearance — at the very least — of impropriety is inescapable.
    "State's job builders need to steer clear of conflicts".

    "Candidates scramble for signatures"

    "The last day to qualify for the ballot as a legislative candidate is June 8, but House and Senate candidates wishing to qualify via petitions must have them in by noon on Monday." "Candidates scramble for signatures in last week to gather petitions".

    State trims rental costs

    "As one of his campaign promises, Gov. Rick Scott said the state would cut $24 million office rental costs within two years. It has trimmed two-thirds of that in less than a year, and state facilities agents say they'll find the rest before the deadline." "As state cuts jobs and merges services, it trims $16 million in rental costs".

    Mack dissembles

    "U.S. Senate candidate Connie Mack, a Republican, says, 'I have always said that I would be for drilling.' PolitiFact Florida reviews his stance over the years." "U.S. Senate candidate Connie Mack’s claim about ‘always’ being for drilling is far from truth".

    "Internet cafes continue to pop up across Florida"

    The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Since the Florida Legislature failed to act this year to clarify the legal status of the state's burgeoning, unregulated Internet cafe industry, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri should continue to crack down on the predatory gambling parlors."

    Internet cafes continue to pop up across Florida under the absurd proposition they are not illegal gambling enterprises under current law. Until the Legislature changes the law or regulates Internet cafes, law enforcement officials should continue to enforce the law and not look the other way.
    "Legislature punts, so sheriff cracks down on gambling".

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