"Few states have done more in recent years to suppress voting ... than Florida"
Charles Blow: "Florida ought to know better. And must do better, particularly on the issue of voting and discrimination."
But, then again, we are talking about Florida, the state of Bush v. Gore infamy and the one that will celebrate the birthday of Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederacy, with a statewide holiday on Sunday."What am I getting at? This:"
Few states in the union have done more in recent years to restrict and suppress voting — particularly by groups who lean Democratic, such as young people, the poor and minorities — than Florida."Darkness in the Sunshine State".
In May 2011, the state’s Republican-led Legislature passed and the Republican governor, Rick Scott, signed a sweeping election law that cut early voting short and imposed onerous burdens on voter registration groups by requiring them to turn in registration applications within 48 hours of the time they are signed or face fines.
The threat of fines has meant that many groups that traditionally registered voters in the state have abandoned the effort, and it appears to be contributing to fewer new registrations. According to a March analysis of registration data by The Times, “in the months since its new law took effect in May, 81,471 fewer Floridians have registered to vote than during the same period before the 2008 presidential election.” ...
Recently, the state announced that it would begin another round of voter purging to ensure that no ineligible voters were mistakenly on the voter rolls. Seems noble enough. But the problem is that Florida is notoriously bad at purging.
As the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice pointed out last week: “In 2000, Florida’s efforts to purge persons with criminal convictions from the rolls led to, by conservative estimates, close to 12,000 eligible voters being removed” from the rolls. As most of us remember, George W. Bush beat Al Gore in the state of Florida that year, after the recounts and the Supreme Court stepped in, by 537 votes. ...
“So far, Florida has flagged 2,700 potential noncitizen voters and sent the list to county elections supervisors, who have found the data and methodology to be flawed and problematic. The list of potential noncitizen voters — many of whom have turned out to be lawful citizens and voters — disproportionately hits minorities, especially Hispanics.” ...
Florida has more electoral votes than any other swing state, and the battle to win it — or steal it — will be epic because the election is likely to be another nail-biter, both nationally and in the state.
"Weekly Roundup: Should I Stay or Should I Go?".
"Plenty to bolster talk of voter-suppression conspiracy in Florida"
Fred Grimm: "Dark mutterings about voter suppression and underhanded politics have been dogging Florida’s bungled campaign to excise non-citizens from the voter registration rolls."
Of course, someone — someone in a charitable mood — could shrug off this mess as innocent ineptitude."With a voter purge based on outdated data, with the U.S. Justice Department intervening to stop Florida from flouting voter-rights laws, with a federal judge knocking down segments of a law that seemed designed, as he put it, 'to discourage voter-registration drives and thus also to make it harder for new voters to register,' there’s plenty of material to bolster talk of a voter-suppression conspiracy in Florida."
While some non-citizens indeed seemed to have cast votes in past elections, a discomfiting percentage of the 2,631 supposedly illicit voters that the Florida Secretary of State told county elections supervisors to zap from their rolls this month turned out to be actual citizens (including a 91-year-old Brooklyn-born veteran of the Battle of the Bulge). Ken Detzner, best known as a beer-industry lobbyist before Gov. Rick Scott picked him to take over as secretary of state in February, admitted Thursday that his office’s “ability to validate a person’s legal status as up-to-date was limited.”
Perhaps his office should have thought of that earlier. The Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections found the discrepancies so disconcerting that it on Friday it advised members to suspend the purge. “We’re erring on the side of voters,” said Associated President Vicki Davis.
And it could have been just another unhappy coincidence that Detzner’s office also forgot about the state’s obligations under the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, before going ahead willy-nilly with his voter purge, particularly a voter purge based on a list that was 58 percent Hispanic. On Thursday, the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division sent their least favorite beer lobbyist a letter, reminding him that federal law requires that major voting changes must first be reviewed by the U.S. Attorney General or a federal judge.
The letter from Justice also warned that the 1993 law requires that a state “shall complete, not later than 90 days prior to the date of a primary or general election for federal office, any program the purpose of which is to systematically remove the names of ineligible voters from the official lists of eligible voters.” With the state’s congressional primary election set for Aug. 14, Florida has blown the deadline. The error-plagued list of potentially illegal voters went out May 8, but the deadline (counting 90 days back from Aug. 14) to finish up Detzner’s purge would have been May 16.
But Detzner was a beer lobbyist (though he did hold this same job briefly, back in 2003), not a math whiz. His office’s flubs might have been utterly innocent. Small beer, as they say in the business.
Someone, feeling charitable, might conclude that none of voter problems necessarily indicate some underhanded plan by Florida Republicans to game the November elections. Except that on the very same day that the letter from the Justice Department showed up in Tallahassee, a federal judge across town issued an injunction against another bit of state meddling with the voter rolls. He said aspects of the state’s controversial 2011 law aimed at voter-registration groups were “harsh and impractical.”
But somebody, feeling charitable, might think that the beer lobbyist charged with safeguarding our elections was only inept. Maybe all he needed was a little civic lesson (along with a federal court injunction) from Judge Hinkle."Beer lobbyist knows little about voting".
"Abortions Tumble in Florida"
"As Year-Old Laws Take Hold, Abortions Tumble in Florida".
"All 5 water management district chiefs gone within 16 months of Scott taking office"
"New Northwest Florida Water Management District Executive Director Jon Steverson on his first day on the new job on Friday said he's heard the "conspiracy theories" about a DEP takeover of the water management districts but they're not true."
Steverson, 36, was special counsel and chief of legislative affairs at DEP before being picked in May to replace Douglas Barr, who was not reappointed by Gov. Rick Scott. Steverson worked closely with the districts during the Legislature's past two regular sessions as key legislation affecting the districts' budgets passed."On first day, new Northwest Florida water chief says "conspiracy theories" are untrue".
An avid hunter with a stuffed duck in his new office along with photos of his family, Steverson is the second DEP official in the past year to lead a water management district after Melissa Meeker's move to the South Florida Water Management District. He will earn $165,000 a year.
"I'm a guy who applied for a job," Steverson said. "I was not put anywhere (by DEP). If you called the secretary (Herschel Vinyard) today, I'm sure he'd say, 'I'd like to have Jon out here still.' At least, I hope that's what he'd say."
Also, Anne Shortelle, director of DEP's Office of Water Policy, is the top pick for a search committee to lead the Suwannee River Water Management District this month following the resignation of executive director David Still in February. With Barr's departure in April, all five water management district chiefs were gone with 16 months of Scott taking office.
Conservatives go after Pariente
Kenric Ward: "Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente may have gotten a bit more than she bargained for at Temple Emeth last month."
Taking a rhetorical shot at Gov. Rick Scott, the Lawton Chiles appointee warned the synagogue conclave that a failure to keep her on the bench would "give Governor Scott the right to make his appointments, which will result in partisan political appointments.""From Gays to Obamacare, Judicial Retention Votes Mix Courts, Politics".
Free speech and political differences are great, but in the world of lawyerly canons of ethics and judicial conduct, Pariente sounded like just another partisan tub-thumper -- the kind that high-minded judges typically revile.
Pariente, who has been on the court since 1997, opened herself up to several questions (which deserve forthright consideration):
- After openly impugning Scott's conservative politics, can she reasonably sit on any cases in which the governor is a party?Pariente, along with fellow Justices Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince, already believe they're under political assault; their attorney, Dan Stengle, has stipulated as much to the state.
- Can she fairly rule on any cases involving the Florida Bar now that the Bar has committed an unprecedented $300,000 for a retention "education" campaign that can be perceived as aiding her?
- Amid the political grandstanding, how does Pariente shake the label of being an "activist judge"? Or does she even acknowledge it?
"Jeb!" has his derrière handed to him
"A top House Democrat slammed Jeb Bush on Friday for criticizing President Obama's economic policies while not condemning those of his brother, former President George W. Bush."
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, noted that hundreds of thousands of Americans were losing their jobs in the months before former President Bush left office in 2009, and said Bush's policies tipped the scales toward the wealthy and Wall Street."Democrat Van Hollen tells Jeb Bush he should be criticizing his brother".
“I’ve searched the record, and as far as I can tell, during that eight-year period you did not challenge the Bush administration’s handling of the economy, criticize the excessive spending or the rising deficits,” Van Hollen told Jeb Bush, a former Florida governor, at a morning hearing.
“It lifted the yachts, but the rest of the boats ran aground,” Van Hollen said about the former president's economic policies during his opening statement.
Van Hollen noted that dozens of Republicans on Capitol Hill supported the Wall Street bailout in 2008, then opposed the stimulus package and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bills under Obama.
Jeb Bush, who was testifying at a hearing on removing barriers to economic growth, appeared taken aback by Van Hollen’s criticism.
"59 percent of Florida algebra students pass state exam". See also "Statewide algebra test trips 52 percent of 9th graders".
"FCAT validity questioned"
"FCAT validity questioned after scoring changes, lowered marks".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board point out that Florida's legislators "largely have muzzled local districts regarding charter expansion. And state officials routinely overrule school boards' charter rejections — even over shoddy standards." "Charter schools and districts".
"Rivera is playing a dangerous political game"
Fabiola Santiago on "the cultural and political divide between generations of Cuban exiles that has led to the move, once unthinkable, by Miami Republican U.S. Rep. David Rivera to sponsor a bill aimed at curtailing the benefits of the Cuban Adjustment Act."
The adjustment act was enacted to ensure legal status, after one year of living here, to Cubans fleeing the Castro regime. Rivera’s bill would keep Cubans from visiting the island during the first five years of arrival, or risk losing residency."On visits to Cuba, Congressman Rivera needs to get a grip".
The change doesn’t sound that ominous, but at a time when anti-immigrant sentiment in this country runs at an all-time high, Rivera is playing a dangerous political game. The entire adjustment act could end up reformed or revoked and the victims of the dictatorship left unprotected.
Recent arrivals don’t want to suffer the family separation that the early exiles endured, so they travel to Cuba to see their relatives as soon as they can, and take with them all the goods and supplies they can legally carry. Whether it helps the regime or not, their motivation is to help family, and that’s not a crime.
Gun-nuts square off against Dyer
"Gun-rights advocates are squaring off against Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer for hiring a new city employee to spearhead the city's fight against illegal guns. Dyer said the city is simply targeting so-called 'crime guns' that end up in the hands of felons. But a gun-rights group argues that public employees shouldn't be trying to erode the Second Amendment right to bear arms." "Gun advocates take aim at Orlando gun-law staffer".
"Shameless hawking of the 'Florida Formula'"
"A Colorado think tank has described the research of former Gov. Jeb Bush’s top education advisor as “nonsensical, confusing and disingenuous.”"
Matthew Ladner received a 2011 Bunkum Award from the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado-Boulder for the research he has published while working as a senior policy and research advisor at Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, a nonprofit whose mission is to encourage Florida-style education reform in other states."Ladner has authored a number of studies on school choice, charter schools and special education reform for organizations including the American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate-supported organization that pushed for 'Stand Your Ground' legislation in Florida and other states."
The National Education Policy Center, a nonprofit that produces peer-reviewed research on education policy, presents the award annually to honor what the center views as shoddy education research.
“We’ve never before found someone with an individual record of Bunkum-worthy accomplishments that just cries out for recognition,” said Kevin G. Welner, director of NEPC. “Dr. Ladner’s body of Bunk-work is focused on his shameless hawking of what he and the governor [Jeb Bush] call the ‘Florida Formula’ for education success.”
Bush couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday because he was traveling.
Ladner, who has a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Houston, mocked the Bunkum Awards last year when a report he co-authored with Lindsey Burke won the honor. He did not respond to an interview request Thursday.
Ladner, who has testified before Congress and state legislatures, previously served as vice president of research at the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank that supports school choice. He was also the director of state projects at the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance for School Choice."Jeb Bush’s Top Education Advisor Receives Unfortunate Distinction".
Since last year, Ladner and Bush have given a series of presentations around the country using Florida as an example to promote the types of education reforms Bush implemented during his eight years as governor. These reforms include creating and implementing standardized tests, providing greater choice with charter schools, extending vouchers for special-needs programs and offering a tuition tax credit for private schools.
Ladner argues that because Florida students’ test scores have increased during a period of school choice and grade retention, these policies must be responsible for the scores.
However, the National Education Policy Center cites evidence that links grade retention to increased dropout rates, not to improved academic achievement.
While Florida’s recent student test scores are unimpressive, Ladner still supports the education reform policies. He blames the poor scores on a slide in real estate values and other outside factors.
"Campaign Roundup: Feds tell Florida to hold its rolls, more fallout in Tampa Senate races and no echo Chambers in Jacksonville".
Deadline to pay the state
"Next week the Agency for Health Care Administration will wrap up its meetings with the final three of the state's 67 counties, which will also a face a deadline to pay the state for the first round of monthly bills." "State accommodates counties on Medicaid billing, but sticking points remain".
"Insurance companies think higher rates are necessary to entice the private market to pick up Citizens policies, but Realtors and some lawmakers say it could discourage home buyers and they wonder whether private insurance carriers will swoop in to take on policies from the state-run insurer." "Insurers, agents see rates as key to shrinking Citizens; others wary". See also "Insurers push for higher Citizens rates".
Aaron Deslatte: "It's hurricane season -- and it may cost you".
Jebbie rewrites history
Jebbie Bush is in the midst of an extreme makeover. "Jeb Bush Takes On Debbie Wasserman Schultz During House Budget Hearing"; "Jeb Bush goes to Washington to speak his mind — not politics"*.
"Jeb!" wants us to forget that he governed as a failed extremist, and left Florida "first in the nation in mortgage fraud, second in foreclosures, last in high school graduation rates", and despite billions in tax cuts for the wealthy, had "the lowest job-creation rate of any Florida governor dating to 1971".
Let's also not forget that "Bush's back-to-back terms were marred by frequent ethics scandals, official bungling and the inability of the government he downsized to meet growing demands for state services, including education and aid for the infirm and the elderly." Indeed, "basic competence has been an issue for Bush".
No wonder he's not interested in the VP slot..
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*And then there's Jebbie's strange repudiation of Grover Norquist: "Jeb Bush rejects Grover Norquist tax pledge". "Norquist defends tax pledge following Jeb Bush remarks".
We say "strange" because, while Governor, Bush cultivated the "image as a tax-loathing populist". Moreover, and consistent with the Ryan-Romney view of the world, "A review of tax cuts enacted during Bush's terms show the bulk of the cuts have aided businesses or investors, with cuts on estate taxes and investments accounting for nearly half of the tax cuts and cuts for businesses also well into the billions of dollars.".