"Republican Gov. Rick Scott is already getting ready for the 2014 election. So are the Democrats who hope to challenge him."
The Republican Party of Florida is buying television ads to promote Scott's policy successes in hopes of reversing the negative impression many voters have of him, and the governor and party are quietly raising money for his re-election. One Democrat has already said she hopes to challenge him and others are not so subtly considering it. ..."Democrats, though, see the 2014 race as a huge opportunity after losing the last four governor's races. While Scott's approval rating has improved, it's still low."
The state GOP is already sending messages. Three of them. It's running ads promoting Scott and his policies across the state. The first boasts that unemployment is dropping and credits Scott's business friendly policies. The other two promote Scott's push for a billion dollar increase in school money in the upcoming budget and a new law that tries to reduce motor vehicle insurance fraud. ...
In 2010, Scott spent more than $70 million of his own money and still barely won election in a year where other Florida Republicans easily cruised to victory.
Scott very early on was defined by his detractors as way further to the right of most Floridians. It wasn't hard to do. Scott announced his first budget proposal in a church during a tea party rally. He hired on tea partiers to his staff. He chose conservative radio and television shows to deliver his message and shunned mainstream media.
The result was approval ratings that hovered around 30 percent. The far-right wing of his party loved him and that was about it. Scott knows he needs to turn that image around if he wants to be re-elected.
State Sen. Nan Rich has already said she'll seek the Democratic nomination. Former state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who lost to Scott in 2010, has set up the Florida Next Foundation to stay active in policy issues, much like Jeb Bush did after losing his first governor's race."Scott looking past '12 election to '14 re-election".
And rumors constantly swirl about former Gov. Charlie Crist, an independent who left the Republican Party before leaving office. Some are pushing him to challenge Scott as a Democrat. Among other names party insiders mention as potential candidates: Former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.
"Yes, we do"
Tom Tryon: "Even before last week's snafu over statewide writing tests, Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson said 'we need to have a very healthy conversation about why assessments matter.' Yes, we do." "We need an FCAT conversation".
"New state government contracts czar"
"Scott hopes a new state government contracts czar will encourage officials to get better deals for taxpayers." "Governor appoints contracts czar to fight wasteful spending; skeptics doubt it’ll help".
"... Florida's democracy will be in trouble"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Voters properly consider if [Florida Supreme Court] justices or judges are still fit to serve, not whether they've issued any rulings that offended politicians or interest groups."
The group leading this year's charge to unseat the three justices, Restore Justice 2012, has accused them of "activism." The group is spotlighting the three justices' votes to strike from the 2010 ballot a proposed constitutional amendment, sponsored by Plakon, that purported to let Floridians opt out of federal health care reform, including its mandate to buy health insurance."Judicial "payback" disturbing".
By a 5-2 vote, the high court upheld a lower court ruling that found the amendment confusing and misleading. Even so, the vote outraged amendment backers.
But bouncing the three justices from the high court as payback for that ruling or others would be an abuse of the retention process. Worse, it could make others still on the bench wary or even unwilling to issue controversial or unpopular rulings for fear of losing their jobs.
Floridians count on their courts to uphold the rule of law and stand up when needed to the other two branches of government, the governor and Legislature.
If justices and judges start making decisions based on public opinion or political expediency instead of the law, Florida's democracy will be in trouble.
"Is the point to strengthen public schools or to destroy them?"
The Miami Herald's Myriam Marquez wonders whether, "after a decade of increasing education standards and accountability, is the point to strengthen public schools or to destroy them?"
Too many public schools, particularly in urban areas, are in need of major repairs. Teachers’ morale is plummeting as they are asked to do ever more while their meager salaries are eaten away by higher costs in health insurance and other benefits. Adding insult to injury, now teacher salaries will be tied directly to their classroom’s FCAT results."Hold politicians accountable for education".
Inject Tallahassee politics — including Gov. Rick Scott’s attempt to diminish the state’s public labor unions, even risking the unconstitutional taking of teachers’ and other public employees’ income to help close a state budget hole, and a failed push by the Legislature to give charter schools more cash for construction even as traditional public schools get nada — and we have an insurrection. ...
Republican elected officials are in trouble with the voters on either side of the FCAT debate after this latest fiasco. Conservatives rightly wonder, why raise standards if you’re going to buckle as soon the tougher results show failure? Liberals rightly point to the dwindling public school budgets, a testing “craze” that zaps teachers’ creativity in the classroom, a revolving door of good teachers exiting to other careers, and they see a Republican assault on public education. ...
Despite the dwindling dollars and low morale, public school teachers and principals are creating miracles every day. They are being held accountable. Now taxpayers must hold our elected officials accountable for not investing in public schools. Talking up excellence and producing more rigorous tests — without targeting problem areas for extra funding — produces one result: mediocrity, over and over again.
"When it comes to fair voting, will Florida ever learn to do it right?"
The Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board asks: "When it comes to fair voting, will Florida ever learn to do it right?"
We ask because, once again, the state is courting problems as it seeks to "purge" supposedly ineligible people from voter rolls."Purges and politics".
Making sure that only eligible citizens cast a ballot is a fine idea, in theory. In practice, it must be done carefully in order to avoid far-reaching mistakes -- as Florida has proved twice before. Voter purges in 2000 and 2004 were riddled with errors; some legitimate citizens were deprived of their voting rights. ...
What's especially troubling about voter purges is their potential to tilt the playing field on election day. This week, a Miami Herald computer analysis of elections records found that "Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are the most likely to be targeted in a state hunt to remove thousands of noncitizens from Florida's voting rolls."
These concerns are further amplified by state laws that make it more difficult to run voter registration drives. A recent article in the Tampa Bay Times cited a study that found new registrations dropping by more than 81,000 (compared to 2008) since the new laws took effect last summer. ...
Actual evidence of fraud is rare among the state's 11 million voters. While guarding the integrity of the vote is important, it is just as vital to ensure that regulations don't interfere with citizens' right to cast a ballot.
Florida should focus on helping voters, and stop getting in their way.
"Miami knows plenty about corrupting elections"
This column by Fred Grimm is a real must read: "Miami knows plenty about corrupting elections. We did a fine job of it in 1997. Maybe those leading the state’s bungled crusade to 'protect the integrity of Florida elections' should have asked the experts." "State left untouched real source of voter fraud".
The best Mitt can do?
Adam C. Smith: "More than four in 10 Florida homeowners are underwater on their mortgages. President Barack Obama has not done much to help them, and it doesn't sound like Mitt Romney has any serious plan in store either. His main idea? Repeal Wall Street reform." "Romney says banking reform hurting housing market in Florida".
Nelson "has rarely had to break a sweat"
George Bennett: Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson "has rarely had to break a sweat so far as various lineups of Republican candidates have clawed at each other, prompting a new candidate to join the GOP fray on Friday."
Last week's intraparty brawl featured U.S. Rep. Connie Mack calling former appointed Sen. George LeMieux a liberal and tying him to Republican outcast Charlie Crist. LeMieux continued his attacks on Mack's past financial woes, residency questions and long-ago fistfights. LeMieux told MSNBC viewers Thursday that if Mack wins the primary he "can't win a character contest against Bill Nelson.""Two-term incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has rarely had to break a sweat amid GOP fray".
On Friday, Dave Weldon, a former congressman for the Space Coast, jumped into the Republican race with an announcement and video that criticized Obama but didn't mention Nelson. Businessman Mike McCalister also is seeking the GOP nomination.
Dead voters previously a "sleeper demographic"
Frank Cerabino has a "News item: Florida's Department of State reported this month that there are more than 53,000 dead Floridians who are registered to vote in the upcoming presidential election."
With Florida once again finding itself a pivotal state in deciding the upcoming presidential election, both sides will be doing their best to get any advantage in a statewide electorate that appears to be nearly evenly divided."Rousing Florida's dead bloc is gravely important for Obama, Romney".
Making inroads to any special interest group could prove decisive in garnering the state's coveted 29 electoral college votes, which could be dispositive in the national contest.
This is why both the Romney and Obama camps will be expected to make significant overtures to Florida's dead voters - which, until this month's revelation, had been a kind of sleeper demographic in this key state.
"In Florida, a growing number of graduates are drowning in debt"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "In Florida, a growing number of graduates are drowning in debt. Yet state lawmakers seem determined to submerge even more, leaving them at the mercy of a job-starved economy and increasingly aggressive federal debt collectors."
In Florida, a growing number of graduates are drowning in debt. Yet state lawmakers seem determined to submerge even more, leaving them at the mercy of a job-starved economy and increasingly aggressive federal debt collectors."Earth to Legislature: Stop ignoring student-debt threat".
College students in Florida who graduated in 2010 with debt had taken on an average load of more than $21,000, a total that swelled by more than a third over the preceding decade. Florida's average is less than the national burden of about $25,000, but the default rate on loans in the state is worse; 10.5 percent of borrowers in Florida whose student loans came due in 2009 had defaulted by 2011, compared with 8.8 percent nationally.
The state's unemployment rate, still higher than the national average, has left fewer opportunities for recent graduates to find work that will pay them enough to keep up with their loans and allow them to launch independent, productive lives by buying their own homes and cars.
Graduates who can't pay their loans can't get out from under them by declaring bankruptcy. An increasing number are getting hit by lawsuits from the federal government, which backs most student loans with taxpayer dollars. In South Florida, the number of those suits nearly doubled between 2009 and 2011.
Florida leaders in both parties love pontificating about the need to get the state's economy moving, but most seem oblivious to the drag of a growing underclass weighed down by debt.
The Legislature slashed $300 million in funding for Florida's public universities for the budget year that begins July 1. Lawmakers doubled down on a policy that has reduced state dollars for those schools by 24 percent over the past four years.
The latest cut all but assures that each school will soon seek another 15 percent increase in its tuition, the maximum allowed under state law. And that can't help but force many students to go deeper into debt to keep up.
"Weekly Roundup: A Numbers Game for Jobs, Schools, Lobbyists". See also "The Week in Review for May 14 to May 18".
Poor Bev, bedeviled by "union obstinance"
Kenric Ward: "Calling herself the 'common-sense conservative,'"
GOP candidate Bev Slough figures to build a consensus in Florida's 6th Congressional District."Republican Seeks 'Common Sense' in 6th Congressional District".
The latest of five Republicans to announce for the open seat along the northeast coast, the veteran St. Johns County School Board member is no red-meat barker. Rather, she fashions herself as a "realist" who can loosen the gridlock on Capitol Hill.
Slough sees her decade on the St. Johns School Board as a "microcosm" of the country. Where adversarial politics, union obstinance and dysfunction bedevil many public school systems, St. Johns has been the top-scoring district in the state for the past three years.
Adam C. Smith wonders "what to make of former Space Coast U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon jumping in? Not much. Few Floridians know much about the doctor best known for his social conservatism, and at this late date it would take someone equipped to spend millions of his own money to make a real splash." "Sen. Dave Weldon?"
Arrivals and Departures
"Arrivals and Departures".
Why not let Sotheby's auction them off?
Kingsley Guy thinks "it's time for Americans to entertain an idea for an effective reform that reflects the realities of the today: Get rid of all the post-Watergate campaign finance laws and allow people and corporations to donate as much money as they want to the candidates and parties of their choice." "Time to lift campaign cash limits".
"Legislators shouldn't get away with saying they didn't raise taxes"
The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Florida legislators shouldn't get away with saying they didn't raise taxes in this election season."
Under current law, Florida limits contributions to state candidates to $500 per election. Congress has imposed a $2,500 per election limit for federal candidates. Consequently, much of a candidate's time must be spent soliciting and collecting donations in dribs and drabs."Blame Legislature, Scott when property taxes rise".
Instead of focusing on the issues, candidates must focus on fund-raising. This can cause qualified people to decide not to run for public office in the first place, and cause others to quit in disgust. The funding limits also have led to the "bundling" of small contributions by political power brokers, enabling them to exert outsized influence.
Clowns drooling to take on Wasserman Schultz
"One of her potential Republican rivals recently depicted U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in a spiked collar, calling her 'Obama's attack dog.' Another lost to the Democratic congresswoman by more than 22 percentage points just two years ago. Another was the butt of a joke on Comedy Central's Daily Show when he tried to explain the anti-Muslim group he heads."
"Merely irritating the DNC chair in her hometown when she has national duties is a win, Republicans say, especially in a part of Florida that's also a source of considerable fundraising for the president. Of the six Republicans who've indicated to the Federal Election Commission they want to do battle in the Aug. 14 primary to then face Wasserman Schultz in November, just three have raised more than $100,000: Harrington, deFaria and Joe Kaufman, who drew the satirical interest of the Daily Show." "GOP sees Wasserman Schultz as face of the left".
"Campaign Roundup: State elections officials check their list twice, candidates line up in final weeks to qualify".
"South Florida gas prices recede"
"How gyrating gas prices affect consumer behavior, confidence, politics and the economy." "As South Florida gas prices recede, so does anxiety".
Legislators putting staffs together
Bill Cotterell: "Senate President-designate Don Gaetz said Friday he has hired Department of Revenue director Lisa Vickers as his senior policy adviser. Katie Betta, communications director for the House, will be moving to the Senate in the same role for the 2013-14 sessions." "Legislative leaders putting their staffs together".
"A federal appeals court Thursday quickly rejected a constitutional challenge to a 2010 Florida election law regulating some outside groups that run political ads or send mailers. A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta issued a brief ruling that upheld the law, which places requirements on what are known as 'electioneering communications organizations,' or ECOs." "Court Upholds Law Reining in Political Groups".
Tell that to public sector fire-rescue personnel
"Scott touted one his political favor themes, the efficiency of the private sector, during a statewide summit on hurricane preparation last week in Fort Lauderdale." "Gov. Rick Scott recalls Hurricane Andrew".