Media genuflects as Rubio's empty suit blows in the wind
"It's one of the most hyped bills on Capitol Hill, and it doesn't even exist."
Three months after U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio revealed he was working on an alternative to the Dream Act, triggering a gusher of positive news coverage, he has yet to produce a written proposal."Rubio got involved in mid March, saying he was gripped by the case of a Miami high school valedictorian who faced deportation."
The delay is raising expectations but also underscores the political challenge facing the Florida Republican and could elevate cynicism that it is an election-year effort to win Hispanic votes. What is certain is time is running out to do something this year, a reality Rubio acknowledged Wednesday.
"He gets all this sweet press and we haven't seen word one. It is getting a little frustrating," said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, an immigration reform group that has been receptive to the idea, which would grant legal status to some children of illegal immigrants.
A pair of Republican senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona, were already working on something similar."Sen. Marco Rubio's plan for alternate Dream Act lacks details".
But it was Rubio who got the attention, a reflection of the news media's appetite for the hotshot rookie senator and potential Mitt Romney running mate, and national GOP eagerness to see him out front on an issue central to Hispanics.
"I think he's so credible to know the things that need to be done and addressed," Hutchison said.
As the months have gone by, however, the missing details have stood out more prominently.
Scott's voter purge "program could have been massive"
"Gov. Rick Scott often says that no actual citizens have been removed from the voter rolls in his program to make sure noncitizens don’t have the chance to cast ballots."
“Not one person has been taken off the voter rolls that was a resident, a U.S. citizen who has the right to vote,” Scott said Tuesday in Miami."The numbers are small and isolated, in large part because Lee and Collier appear to be the only two major Florida counties that are continuing with the program of purging potential noncitizens if they fail to respond to the counties’ requests to proof citizenship."
But that might not be the case.
In two counties — Collier and Lee — at least nine people have been removed from the voter rolls under Scott’s program, and elections officials have no solid proof that those people are noncitizens. More could be purged soon.
It’s that lack of certainty that concerns Democrats, liberals and voting-rights groups, who have sued the state to stop the program. On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice also filed suit.
Critics say they worry that the program will spook legitimate voters who are immigrants.
The other major Florida counties stopped the process amid concerns with the accuracy of a list of 2,700 potential noncitizens furnished by the state. The list disproportionately contained the names of actual citizens legally entitled to vote and incidentally [sic] happened to target more minorities than non-Hispanic whites and Republicans."Legal voters may — or may not — have been purged from rolls in noncitizen hunt".
Had the large counties continued with the program, the controversy and questions would only have grown, judging by what’s happening in the two Southwest Florida counties. The state’s program could have been massive. The state initially identified more than 180,000 potential noncitizens on the rolls.
"With Scott battling higher rates, schools may be forced to re-work requests to boost fees." "State universities preparing for tuition battle".
From the "values" crowd
A recent report shows that
the poverty rate among Florida’s children has climbed 35 percent between 2006 and 2010, resulting in 1.8 million kids living in low-income households. The state’s rate of low birth-weight infants also is worse than the national average, with 10 percent of Florida children having developmental or behavorial problems."Report: In Florida, Tough Economy Hurting Children Most".
The number of homeless students in Florida has almost doubled since 2006 and the rate of food insecurity among Florida’s children is worse than the national average, the study found.
Haridopolos "quietly steered $6 million to company"
"When a politically connected company was in danger of losing a $9.4 million no-bid contract with the state, Senate President Mike Haridopolos came to the rescue of the outfit — a firm that employs his good friend and political benefactor as a lobbyist."
Haridopolos staved off the threat to the deal with the Department of Juvenile Justice and quietly steered $6 million in additional dollars to the company, despite the vigorous objections of agency leaders and top Republican senators."Sen. Haridopolos comes to aid of politically connected firm".
The move allowed Evidence Based Associates, a Washington-based probation program, the exclusive contract to handle the state effort to divert at-risk youth from costly prison beds into community programs. The company kept the business despite recent reports that it had failed to comply with key terms of the agreement —– and to the chagrin of a long list of providers who wanted to compete for the work.
The company’s lobbyist, Frank Tsamoutales, is a Brevard County Republican who has been a financial backer of Haridopolos since the Brevard County legislator was first elected to office in 2000.
Perhaps it can be contracted out?
"State losing dedicated technology agency".
Federal database "would not be the panacea that Scott suggests"
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Scott continues to defend his discredited attempt to remove noncitizens from the voter rolls, and the national media again ridicules Florida's efforts to make it harder to vote. But the governor is right in one respect. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been stonewalling in responding to a request by state elections officials to use a federal computer program, and it owes the state and its residents a clearer answer."
The editors concede, however, that the
SAVE system would not be the panacea that Scott suggests. It is used by hundreds of federal and state agencies, including Florida's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, to help determine an immigrant's eligibility for benefits such as a driver's license. But it does not include U.S. citizens born in this country, who have popped up on the state's flawed list of noncitizens. And to produce accurate results, an agency must have access to a noncitizen's specific immigration documents. Florida elections officials do not have those identifying documents, which are necessary to properly use the SAVE system."Homeland Security owes Florida answers".
Here's sum raw political courage for 'yer: "Only American Citizens Should Be Allowed to Vote".
"Texting cash to candidates"
"The rule change was sought by advocates who want to harness wireless technology to promote civic engagement. It comes two years after Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission." "Texting cash to candidates seen as boon to local campaigns, citizen involvement". The Advisory Opinion is here (.pdf).
"Whoopee — we’re among the best of the worst!"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Miami-Dade County’s effective wage-theft ordinance emerged safe and sound from this year’s legislative session, despite the best efforts of lawmakers — in the sway of monied special interests — to kill it."
Because the ordinance still stands, it casts Miami-Dade County as a leader in a state that does little to nothing to protect workers from employers who don’t pay up. Better still, Broward and Palm Beach counties are considering their own wage-theft ordinances, joining Miami-Dade at the forefront of protecting workers, helping well-intentioned employers who are in a financial bind and penalizing the bad actors."Florida dead last in protecting workers".
A ranking by the Progressive States Network found that “Florida has exactly zero laws on the books that would incentivize employers to stay honest.” And when it comes to holding employees accountable to their employees with such measures as notice of wages and paydays and pay stubs with each pay period, “Florida held the shameful honor of scoring 0, a score that only Alabama and Mississippi — two states that have never had wage and hour laws — can also share.”
Well, whoopee — we’re among the best of the worst!
"Environmentalists still have concerns about the plan, particularly a schedule that will push back state cleanup deadlines by a decade and about how the state will finance the deal. But most consider the step a sign of progress after years of stalling on clean up." "EPA approves state Everglades plan". See also "EPA: State's Everglades Plan Meets Federal Approval".
Mini-Mack turns tail
"With former Gov. Jeb Bush and other big-name Republicans backing Rep. Connie Mack’s Senate bid and polls showing Mack with a sizeable lead over his GOP rivals, the Mack campaign says a debate of Republican primary candidates would only help Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson."
So Mack has turned down invitations from The Orlando Sentinel and The Tampa Bay Times to participate in debates with GOP rivals George LeMieux, Mike McCalister and David Weldon. And Mack has effectively said no to an invitation from Leadership Florida to participate in a July 24 Republican primary debate in Tallahassee."Mack says no to GOP debates".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "We're sure that Republicans across Florida are relieved to hear that Mack has won the race by acclamation — his own. ... Mack instead shows contempt for his opponents, treating them like a band of misfits even though the ballot includes former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, and retired U.S. Army Col. Mike McCalister. They are, however, unworthy of Connie Mack's time and effort." "Our take: Connie Mack's debate dodge".
"Frustrated with the FCAT and a school-accountability system they think tramples educational quality, a key panel of the Florida School Boards Association on Wednesday urged state leaders to scale back Florida's use of standardized tests for important school decisions." "Top education group takes aim at state's FCAT culture".
"In a ballot initiative that caught the attention of Florida tea party conservatives and low-tax advocates the country over, North Dakota voters on Tuesday said 'no' to making their state the first in the nation to end property taxes."
Nevertheless, some folks in the Sunshine State envied the Peace Garden State the opportunity, and say they hope some bold conservative in the Florida Legislature will take the idea up."However Tempting, Florida Likely Won't Try to Eliminate Property Taxes".
Harold Carmichael, a retired Navy engineer from Miami Lakes who frequents South Florida tea party rallies, claims, "This is just what Florida needs, a initiative like this to get the idea out there. Let's float it and get some conversation about it. If nothing else it might result in a move toward lower property taxes."
Carolyn Crighty, tea party activist in Escambia County, said she's disappointed North Dakota didn't "go for it, show the rest of the nation how a fiscally conservative state gets the job done. Property taxes aren't realistic," she said. "People's homes have risen in value faster than their paychecks and they can't afford to pay it. Property tax is a big part of Florida's foreclosure rate."
Tea party initiatives to consider similar amendments to the state constitutions are also gathering steam in Texas, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
"Citizens Goes for Downsizing Experience in Picking New President". See also "Citizens Insurance gets new president".
"Fed up with the closed-door treatment from Gov. Rick Scott, the Police Benevolent Association sent a nasty gram using a word game in its quarterly newsletter, Roll Call."
The sixth page of the March newsletter notes that the union that represents police departments, sheriffs and other law enforcement officers has repeatedly asked Gov. Rick Scott to submit a guest article to the newsletter as part of its practice offered to every statewide elected official."Police union cusses governor in newsletter".
"While we know he and/or his staff receives our email requests, we have yet to receive any kind of response from him,’’ the message said.
It urged members to write and call the governor to urge him to write about how he feels about law enforcement officers. Then, it added: "If you would like to know what we really think of the governor and the staff member who refuses our requests, go back to page four and write down the first letter of each paragraph."
A careful reading of Executive Director Matt Puckett’s column provides the answer: "S-H-*-*-H-E-A-D-S."
Reached Wednesday, Puckett had no apologies. "The governor’s office and the governor, since he ran for that office has closed the door to the PBA,’’ he said. "We’ve reached out to him or his staff and we get no response. His policies have a very important effect on our membership and we get a closed door. Quite frankly, I’m tired of it."
"His departure is appropriate if overdue"
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Jim Norman's political career appears to be dead — and that's a good thing. He proved himself untrustworthy in a smelly affair where his wife accepted $500,000 from the late political activist Ralph Hughes, who vigorously supported Norman during his 18 years on the Hillsborough County commission. She used it to purchase a house in Arkansas. Norman announced Tuesday he would not run for re-election to the state Senate. His departure from the Legislature is appropriate if overdue." "Jim Norman's sad departure".
"Lamented the death of embarrassment"
Joe Henderson: "Near the end of a chat the other day with Paula Dockery, the Republican state senator from Lakeland, she lamented the death of embarrassment. It was once a powerful tool in keeping our elected officials straight. Not so much lately, though." "Politicians have no shame".
Rubio all for the purge
"Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday defended controversial efforts by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to purge the Sunshine State's voter rolls, denying it has targeted Hispanics. ... Hispanics make up 14% of the Florida electorate but are 61% of several thousand registered voters who have been told to provide proof of citizenship or lose their right to vote." "Rubio defends Florida voter roll purge".
Trade group embarrasses Darden
"The world's largest casual-dining company is quietly ending its longtime affiliation with the trade group, which represents hotels and restaurants throughout the state. Industry experts say Darden's departure will cost the association, which lobbies the Legislature and governor on hospitality issues, some of its political clout."
Earlier this year, Darden said publicly the time wasn't right for a bill drafted by the restaurant association that would have slashed the minimum wage for Florida workers who earn tips to $2.13 an hour. ..."Darden cuts its ties to Florida's restaurant trade group".
The proposed measure, which outraged many Floridians and was lampooned by TV satirist Stephen Colbert, eventually died in committee. The association, meanwhile, was criticized for portraying the bill as a way to ensure "higher, stable wages" for restaurant workers.
The botched attempt to cut restaurant servers' wages likely contributed to Darden's decision to drop its FRLA membership, experts said.
"Decline in incomes was most pronounced among highly educated families"
The Saint Petersburg Times editors write that "it was a hands-off Washington that enabled the mortgage and financial crisis to mushroom. As the Federal Reserve survey makes clear, the decline in incomes was most pronounced among highly educated families, those headed by middle-aged people and those living in the fast-growing South and West — including Florida. States and local governments also can help by not resurrecting the same go-for-broke development policies that encouraged the real estate bubble in the first place. The first step in recovering two decades of household wealth is not repeating the mistakes that caused it to evaporate." "Lost wealth and the long climb back".
Health Care Reform, even over Scott's objections
"At least three of the biggest insurance companies operating in Florida say they will hang on to some popular provisions of the federal health care law even if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes it down, though the state’s largest carrier is holding off."
UnitedHealth, Aetna and Humana said this week they will continue to honor some parts of the law even if it is struck down."3 of Fla.’s big insurers to keep parts of health reform".
UnitedHealth, the nation’s largest insurer by market value, pledged Monday to keep honoring such provisions as no lifetime limits on benefits, no co-pay on certain preventive services like annual checkups and coverage for dependents on family plans to age 26.
“These provisions make sense for the people we serve and it is important to ensure they know these provisions will continue,” said CEO Stephen Hemsley of the Minnesota-based insurer that covers about 26 million Americans in plans affected by the law.
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Repeal health care law? Too late" ("The three insurers cover nearly 5 million Floridians.") The Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board: "Health-insurance progress".