Scott dares Justice Department to sue
"Gov. Rick Scott’s election’s chief on Wednesday defiantly refused a federal demand to stop purging non-citizens from Florida’s voter rolls, intensifying an election-year confrontation with President Barack Obama’s administration as each side accuses the other of breaking federal law."
In a sharply worded letter, Scott’s administration claimed the Department of Justice doesn’t understand two federal voting laws at the heart of the dispute and was protecting potentially illegal voters more than legal ones.
"Gov. Rick Scott: voter purge lawful, feds are wrong and breaking the law".
Florida also accused another federal agency, the Department of Homeland Security, of violating the law by denying Florida access to a federal citizenship database.
“This hardly seems like an approach earnestly designed to protect the integrity of elections and to ensure that eligible voters have their votes counted,” said the letter, written by Scott’s hand-picked secretary of state, Ken Detzner, a fellow Republican.
Detzner also submitted a list of four questions that he wants the DOJ to answer.
In tone and substance, the letter all but dares the Justice Department to sue Florida for allegedly violating the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), nicknamed “motor voter.”
"Detzner also renewed the state's request, first made last year,"
for access to a Department of Homeland Security database of citizens and said the feds "may [have] violate[d] federal law" by denying it. And he added that the purge has identified people who "by their own admission" are non-citizens and have no right to vote.
"Rick Scott administration refuses to halt voter 'purge'". See also "State responds to federal request in voter purge case" and "".
But an attorney for the Florida Association of Supervisors of Election, who last week had urged the state's 67 supervisors to suspend the purge because of the feds' letter, said Wednesday night he was sticking by that recommendation until the dispute is resolved.
"I don't think the Justice Department is going to say, 'Oh, we were just fooling,'" said Ron Labasky, the group's attorney.
Poll: Obama maintains Florida lead
"PPP's newest Florida poll finds little change in the state compared to mid-April."
At that time Barack Obama led Mitt Romney 50-45 there, and now his advantage is 50-46. Voters in the state narrowly approve of Obama, 49/46, and continue to dislike Romney, giving him a 39/53 favorability rating.
"Obama up in Florida".
Obama's strength is based on what's become a pretty predictable set of groups. He's up 57-39 with women, 61-36 with Hispanics, 93-7 with African Americans, and 65-27 with voters under 30. Romney's up 52-46 with seniors and 55-41 with whites but he'd need larger advantages with those demographics to be ahead overall.
Neither of Florida's most discussed Vice Presidential prospects would have a huge impact on the race. Marco Rubio is slightly popular with a 44/40 approval rating, but his presence on the ticket would only narrow Obama's lead to 49-46. Rubio would help some with Hispanic voters, taking Obama's lead down to 55-40 with that group, but doesn't make a huge dent overall.
Jeb Bush wouldn't help Romney either. He has a 48/42 favorability rating but with him as the VP Obama's lead actually increases ever so slightly to 5 points at 50/45.
A .pdf of the entire poll is here.
Jack Latvala to run for Senate District 20
"Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, announced he will run for Senate District 20 by posting a tweet on his web page. The newly redrawn district covers northern Pinellas County." "Latvala decides to seek Senate District 20".
"Jeb Bush says he doesn’t 'have to play the game of being 100,000 percent against President Obama,' although the former Florida governor has 'a long list of things' that he thinks Obama has done wrong." "Jeb Bush praises Obama, worries GOP is shortsighted".
"Florida led the nation in federal public corruption convictions"
"Leaders of a new ethics watchdog group say reforms are coming to Florida’s ethics laws. Integrity Florida, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group founded in January, released a report Wednesday showing that Florida led the nation in federal public corruption convictions from 2000 to 2010." "Ethics watchdog group calls for reforms". See also "Is Florida the leader in public corruption? Study to say yes".
League of Women Voters to resume registrations
"The League of Women Voters said they are ready to resume their interrupted registration efforts just days after winning a federal injunction against Florida." "League of Women Voters to restart registration drive". See also "League of Women Voters restarts registration drive".
The Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board: "The venerable Florida League of Women of Voters and youth-oriented Rock the Vote announced yesterday that they are resuming voter-registration drives in our state. Words from a 1970s sitcom's theme song come to mind: Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back." "Ready again to register". See also "U.S. judge's ruling means voter registration efforts will resume, ramp up in Florida".
Orange County SOE wants 214,000 fresh voter signatures
"Some voters are showing signs of getting fed up with efforts to question their right to vote in Florida, reacting angrily to 214,000 letters sent by Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles this week to longtime and absentee voters in Orange County. Cowles is asking them to submit fresh voter signatures so that there will be no confusion when his office checks signatures on absentee ballots this year. In the Republican presidential primary Jan. 31, Cowles said, his office rejected 119 absentee ballots because the signatures on the ballots didn't adequately match the ones they had on file." "Orange voters react angrily to request for new signatures".
Teamsters take on DOC
"The labor union that represents the state's corrections officers is trying to block cost-saving measures at the Department of Corrections that limit officers’ ability to check up on parolees and probationers in their homes. In March the department imposed new limits on so-called community corrections that ended periodic visits to many offenders’ homes. In some cases they could still visit offenders with permission from a supervisor." "Teamsters, Department of Corrections clash over probation policy".
Poor "Jeb!", this year "was probably his time"
"In an interview that aired this morning, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush rejected any notion of being Mitt Romney's running mate on the GOP ticket — 'under no circumstances,' he says — but when asked about his own presidential aspirations, he said this year 'was probably my time.'" "Jeb Bush on run for presidency: 'This was probably my time'".
Uncapping Citizens' rates
"As the state's insurer of last resort prepares to name a new president next week, one of five candidates, interim president Tom Grady, continued a barnstorming tour today to keep alive the idea of uncapping rates for new customers." "Citizens interim president touts uncapping rates as he tours state".
Jeb endorses Mack
"Mack wins coveted Jeb Bush endorsement for U.S. Senate run".
"Connie Bersok was placed on administrative leave with pay in May two days after writing a memo objecting to a proposed permit for a wetlands mitigation bank in Clay County. DEP, which declined a media request to interview Bersok, said she was placed on leave pending an internal investigation -- not because of her memo. A superior had raised concerns two days after the memo about Bersok violating personnel policies." "Wetlands expert cleared by investigation, returns to DEP".
"Partisan hacks have no shame"
Thomas Tryon: "Florida's partisan hacks have no shame. Republican and Democrat alike, they circumvent the state constitution and deliberately disenfranchise would-be voters -- with impunity -- by exploiting Florida's election law."
The latest exploitation came last week, when Victoria Ann Brill filed to run as a write-in candidate for Sarasota County supervisor of elections.
"End run around universal primary".
Brill is the 24-year-old daughter of the Sarasota County Republican Party's finance chairman. Her goal is not to get elected so she can run the elections office and encourage voting; rather, she filed as a write-in candidate to deny a majority of registrants in Sarasota County the chance to vote for the supervisor. How ironic.
If Brill formally qualifies as a candidate this week and no Democrat runs for the office, 55 percent of the people registered to vote won't be able to cast a ballot in the race between Republicans Kathy Dent, the incumbent, and Jon Thaxton, who announced his candidacy Friday.
Unfortunately, Brill is only one of many write-in candidates in our region who have sought to limit voting and undermine the intent of a constitutional amendment approved in 1998 by 64 percent of Florida voters.
Tougher regulations for ALFs ... the whining begins
"Industry representatives said they fear the costs associated with the increased regulation could force many of the nearly 3,000 assisted living facilities to close their doors. About two-thirds of the assisted living facilities in Florida have 20 or fewer beds." "ALF panel begins negotiations on tougher regulations".
Speaking of "partisan hacks"
Jebbie breathlessly declares that"'I'm not going to be VP candidate'".
Health insurance parity
"All state employees -- from the governor and chief justice to the janitor and newest clerk -- would pay the same for their health insurance, under a recommendation approved Wednesday by a special commission on cutting operating costs of Florida government." "Efficiency panel urges health insurance parity".
Raw political courage
"Gov. Scott takes jobs talk to rural Panhandle counties"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Why did Gov. Rick Scott sign this legislation, which usurps the federal responsibility guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution? He, too, alluded to the unenforceability of state law after signing it — and then he backtracked. And now the state will have to spend public money fighting yet another lawsuit. ... Any questions about how U.S. laws pertaining to Cuba are being enforced should be clarified by federal courts — not the Florida Legislature." "Another inevitable lawsuit". See also "Construction firm sues to block law barring contracts with companies tied to Cuba".
Ron Paul Festival
"With slightly more than two months until the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, tension is building between the party and supporters of Ron Paul, who hope for a high-profile role that may not please the GOP establishment."
The tension broke into confrontation and arrests when Paul backers took over a state GOP convention in Louisiana last weekend to elect their own slate of Tampa delegates.
"Spokesman: RNC not blocking Ron Paul fest at fairgrounds".
It's also showing up in Tampa convention planning as Paul's forces suggest the party is stalling approval of a three-day Ron Paul Festival at the Florida State Fairgrounds the weekend before the convention. The party's convention-planning Committee on Arrangements denies the charge.
The festival, backers say, will include musical acts, comedy, speeches and up to 20,000 attendees – but maybe not an appearance by Paul – and is part of his attempt to use the gathering to elevate his blended libertarian-Republican message.
It may also be aimed at raising Paul's political influence or that of his son, Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
For their part, Republicans are objecting to another tactic by Paul forces – seeking to pack the convention with Paul supporters, a practice some condemn as "delegate stealing."
Paul has been successful in getting dozens of delegates in states where his votes in primary elections or initial caucuses didn't appear to justify it.
State government layoffs
"After vetoes by Gov. Rick Scott, the new $69.9 billion state budget eliminates 4,358 positions. The state workforce is seeing fewer reductions than last year, however, because the cuts are smaller and agencies are focused on filling vacancies." "State government layoffs are coming, but more slowly than last year".
Pinellas County Exhibit A
"To understand the serious challenges Florida Democrats face clawing their way back to relevancy in America's biggest battleground state, consider Pinellas County Exhibit A:"
It's a safe bet that Barack Obama will carry Florida's most densely populated county in November, even if Mitt Romney wins the state. The president won Pinellas by more than 8 percentage point fours years ago, after all, and Alex Sink comfortably beat Rick Scott two years ago in that GOP wave election.
"For Pinellas Democrats, it could be another tough year".
But it's also plausible that once the votes are counted Nov. 6, Democrats in Pinellas will wind up with few — if any — other gains, despite their slight advantage in registered voters.
"Republican Party has drifted into the 16th century"
Daniel Ruth: "It probably gives you some idea how far the Republican Party has drifted into the 16th century when Jeb Bush has emerged as a moderate voice of reason and common sense."
There are plenty of reasons why Bush has been pretty insistent he's not remotely interested in being Mitt Romney's running mate, not the least of which is the former Florida governor probably views the vice presidency as beneath him. But if there's a job that involves ermine robes, sedan chairs and thrones, well then, give Jeb a call. Perhaps he'll answer the phone. "[D]uring an appearance before the U.S. House Budget Committee the other day that Bush gave voice to what so many believe, but dare not utter for fear of offending Grover Norquist, the Iago of the Beltway."
For years Norquist has been the Republican Party's one-man blackball society, forcing candidates and officeholders to sign a ditzy pledge to never, never, never vote to raise taxes of any kind. They can't even think about it, or dream about it, or even mouth the word, or Norquist will unleash the gods of hellfire upon their careers with a vicious sneer.
"Bush created two problems here."
Bush thinks this is silly.
First, he hinted that those Republicans who had signed the bumptious pledge were essentially little more than spineless, gutless toadies, all too happy to sign away their scruples to satisfy the demands of a self-anointed Washington insider. Some of these folks include signatory Mitt Romney, who would have signed Norquist's keister if he thought it would win him the support of the tea party's Herbert Hoover Brigade.
"For GOP grown-up, a tax pledge too far".
With a single comment, Bush exposed Republicans who love to tout their rugged individualism as little more than groveling curios on Norquist's stump charm bracelet.
And just as important, Bush blithely dismissed Norquist's bona fides as an influential player in national politics.
"A state panel appointed to spell out ways to save money finds an unexpected hurdle to streamlining state government: a lobbyist-driven legislature." "Task force faces big hurdles to save state billions of dollars".
Zimmerman SA threatens to sue Harvard Law School
"Famed attorney and legal commentator Alan Dershowitz has been one of the harshest critics of State Attorney Angela Corey's approach to prosecuting George Zimmerman. According to Dershowitz, Corey is none too pleased."
"Dershowitz: Zimmerman prosecutor ranted against Harvard".
Writing on Newsmax.com, the Harvard Law School professor says Corey called the school and went on "a 40-minute rant, during which she threatened to sue Harvard Law School, to try to get me disciplined by the Bar Association and to file charges against me for libel and slander."
When the school explained Dershowitz has a right to express his opinions, Corey "persisted in her nonstop whining," he writes, "claiming that she is prohibited from responding to my attacks by the rules of professional responsibility."
Dershowitz has been critical of Corey since she charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder in April. He says the affidavit she filed to support that charge omitted key facts and contained "half truths."
A Corey spokeswoman declined to comment on the Newsmax column.
Dershowitz's post doesn't say when exactly Corey's call occurred. A Harvard Law School spokeswoman didn't return a call seeking comment.
Dershowitz says Corey, in her affidavit, "willfully omitted all information" about injuries Zimmerman suffered in his conflict with 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. He said Corey denied having an obligation to include that information.
"She should go back to law school, where she will learn that it is never appropriate to submit an affidavit that contains a half truth, because a half truth is regarded by the law as a lie, and anyone who submits an affidavit swears to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth," Dershowitz wrote.
Dershowitz has ripped Corey repeatedly.
The affidavit, he said in a television interview, "is not only thin, it's irresponsible." He described Corey's announcement of the charge as "a campaign speech for re-election" and later wrote that she has been "anything but ethical, lawful and professional" in prosecuting the case.
"Leave it to Gov. Scott's administration to flub"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "If Florida truly wants to rid the voter rolls of noncitizens, the state is doing so in the worst way. Late, rushed and flawed are three appropriate adjectives, but the best one may be combative, because the state's my-way-or-the-highway approach has created a nationally watched confrontation with two federal agencies, the 67 election supervisors and a litany of advocacy groups."
Leave it to Gov. Scott's administration to flub what could have been a noncontentious effort. Few would quarrel with the stated goal of ensuring that noncitizens do not vote illegally. The new effort to compile a list of suspected noncitizens, however, was handled secretively and then sprung at the eleventh hour upon the independent election supervisors, whose offices maintain the voter rolls."Editorial: Returns shaky for state".
"How many clients is too many"?
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "How many clients is too many for a public defender?"
That is the fundamental question about the quality of justice for indigent defendants that will be considered today by the Florida Supreme Court. The justices are being asked whether a public defender's office may obtain relief from caseloads so excessive that attorneys are unable to meet basic professional standards of representation. It is a difficult question, particularly in an era where the Legislature has no qualms about underfunding the courts. But it is incumbent upon the justices to ensure that poor defendants get a lawyer who does more than simply show up.
"Public defenders overloaded". See also "Florida justices consider public defender dispute".
Four years ago, the Miami-Dade County Public Defender's Office was facing a perfect storm. New cases were flooding in while the Legislature was cutting spending. At one point the office was responsible for providing a defense in more than 40,000 new and reopened noncapital felony cases with fewer than 100 lawyers to handle them. National standards put maximum annual caseloads at 150. Assistant public defenders in Miami-Dade were responsible for 400 or more felony cases. Any lawyer who handles more than double the maximum is unable to provide more than a cursory defense to most clients. In desperation, the office sought help from the state courts.
Under professional rules, attorneys may not take more cases than they can handle. The public defender's legal position is that to allow additional appointments beyond that would be a conflict of interest, since any time used for a new client would limit the ability to serve existing clients.