Since 2002, daily Florida political news and commentary


UPDATE: Every morning we review and individually digest Florida political news articles, editorials and punditry. Our sister site, FLA Politics was selected by Campaigns & Elections as one of only ten state blogs in the nation
"every political insider should be reading right now."

E-Mail Florida Politics

This is our Main Page
Our Sister Site
On FaceBook
Follow us on Twitter
Our Google+ Page
Contact [E-Mail Florida Politics]
Site Feed
...and other resources


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.


Older posts [back to 2002]

Previous Articles by Derek Newton: Ten Things Fox on Line 1 Stem Cells are Intelligent Design Katrina Spin No Can't Win Perhaps the Most Important Race Senate Outlook The Nelson Thing Deep, Dark Secret Smart Boy Bringing Guns to a Knife Fight Playing to our Strength  

The Blog for Saturday, November 24, 2012

Tax Dodge Funds Private Schools

    "On Election Day, voters turned down a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution that critics said could have cleared the way for taxpayer-funded vouchers for religious schools."
    What many voters likely didn't know is that millions of tax dollars already are being funneled to those schools. . . .
    Schools run by Baptist, Lutheran, Seventh-day Adventist, Catholic, Jewish and Islamic religious organizations are among those accepting scholarship students in Central Florida and across the state. The scholarships are paid with money that certain businesses can contribute to the scholarship organization instead of paying state taxes.
    "The state prescribes what students learn in public schools — including, for example, instruction on evolution theory — and carefully measures results. Performance of students and schools has been appraised by student test scores for several years, and this year for the first time public-school teachers will be evaluated based in part on those test scores as well."
    But the state has no control over the curriculum at private schools. Critics complain that the state is sending students to private religious schools at taxpayer expense without adequately assessing how students or schools perform.
    The state requires that scholarship students in grades three to 10 take a standardized test each year but only takes a broad look at the results to see whether the scholarship students overall appear to be relatively on par with public-school students.
    "That is one of the cruelest tricks we are playing on children in education today," said Kathleen Oropeza, one of the founders of Fund Education Now, an Orlando-based parents' group critical of Florida lawmakers' push for school choice.
    Oropeza and other critics say that accountability standards for scholarship students attending the private schools lack the teeth of those for public schools, such as holding back students, denying diplomas, firing teachers or closing low-performing schools. Without penalties for poor performance, there is no real accountability, they say.
    But despite such criticism, the scholarship fund continues to grow as businesses such as Walgreens, Winn-Dixie and United Healthcare of Florida contribute in lieu of paying state taxes.

    "Florida already funnels millions in tax dollars to religious schools".
    Meanwhile, we are told by that "Charters underperform public schools".
    In a related matter, Florida rolls over in a lawsuit, and "state education officials will allow students at a Central Florida Christian college to be eligible for a popular grant program." "State, Christian College Settle Constitutional Fight".

    Grifter soaked unemployment system, now leads it
    "Hunting Deutsch, executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity, received more than $25,000 of unemployment benefits for 91 weeks between 2009 and 2011 -- eight weeks shy of the maximum at the time of 99 weeks of benefits. The Panhandle banker who owns two homes in Florida worth more than $1.1 million, traveled to Europe often while he was receiving benefits and told The Florida Current this month that he 'didn’t need to work.'" "Deutsch nearly maxed out unemployment benefits".

    Scott needs to own this
    The Miami Herald editorial board: " A child in a casket is any parent’s worst moment and greatest loss. A child behind bars is any parent’s fear. And now there are two South Florida families facing those devastating scenarios. All because a loaded gun seems to have been left accessible to a 15-year-old boy."
    We can look for scapegoats, sure, but the truth is everyone should claim responsibility, starting in the home all the way up to the governor’s office.
    Yes, Gov. Rick Scott. Why?
    Because his administration continues to defend the Republican-led Legislature’s new law that would ban pediatricians and other doctors from even asking their patients the simple safety question: Do you own a gun and do you keep it locked away from your kids?
    In July, U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke blocked the state from enforcing that onerous law. The judge noted in her decision that the state law “aims to restrict a practitioner’s ability to provide truthful, non-misleading information to patient.” One truth: If you own a gun and have children in the home you should store it where it would not be accessible, and even if found, the bullets should be stashed somewhere else so that it couldn’t misfire.
    Investigators will determine the facts of this case, and it may well be that Jordyn’s parents did exactly what they should have done and yet the boy managed to load the pistol with bullets.
    But one fact remains clear: Fining physicians $10,000 for asking a patient about gun access (and that’s just the penalty for the first violation) — with a minimum of $100,000 for any health professional who asks about gun safety more than twice — criminalizes doctor-patient conversations.
    The law, as we’ve said before, is a stunning example of heavy-handed government intrusion from a Legislature that has been bellowing “small government” for years. In doing the bidding of the NRA, for whom gun control is the spawn of the devil, lawmakers and the governor foolishly trampled the First Amendment on its way to elevating the Second. (It also would keep those campaign donations flowing from the right-to-bear-arms crowd.) Unfortunately, the governor is fighting the federal judge’s ruling. The state’s appeal continues.
    "Guns and children".

    "Dorworth was handed an unfathomable defeat"
    "Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, is a fourth-generation Brevard County resident with a political lineage that leads to the Governor's Office and state Supreme Court. But until last week, the 41-year-old lawmaker had kept a low profile in the Capitol, overseeing few controversial bills, technical or low-key agricultural issues, and the often solitary duty of trying to defend Florida's withering space industry."
    "That changed in an instant when the powerful but controversial Lake Mary Rep. Chris Dorworth was handed an unfathomable defeat by Seminole County voters. One by one, House Republicans who had pledged to support Dorworth's speakership started calling Crisafulli. Within a day of Dorworth's recount, Crisafulli found himself in line to become House speaker in 2014." "Crisafulli called a 'servant-leader' in replacing Dorworth".

    Christian Family Coalition behind reinstating Miami-Dade commission prayer
    "The Miami-Dade County Commission is poised next month to reinstate nondenominational prayers to kick off their meetings, after a group of commissioners approved the policy shift last week."
    But the change was not spontaneous: The conservative Christian group pushing to restore prayer has been laying the groundwork for nearly a year and a half.
    The Christian Family Coalition saw an opportunity to promote its agenda after Commissioner Katy Sorenson retired in late 2010, according Anthony Verdugo, the group’s executive director. Sorenson had been one of two board members who years earlier — in 2004, Verdugo said — changed the county’s practice to begin meetings with a moment of silence instead of a prayer.
    "Sorenson was replaced by the more conservative Lynda Bell, whom the Coalition had endorsed. There was other commission turnover as well."
    The ordinance stipulates that no one be allowed to give the invocation more than three times a year. The opening prayer would be open to leaders of all faiths.
    But while the ordinance says the invocation will be nondenominational, there’s no way for the county to know in advance what a speaker plans to say, said Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.
    That’s what happened before commissioners did away with the invocation, former Commissioner Sorenson said. The prayers were supposed to be nondenominational, but that often wasn’t the case.

    "Conservative Christian group pushed reinstating Miami-Dade commission prayer".
    Republicans silent
    "The number of Cubans attempting to enter the U.S. has spiked in the last year, U.S. officials say, as are the ways they are getting here. As the U.S. Coast Guard deals with a rising tide of those trying to enter the country by sea, U.S. officials and resettlement agencies report they are seeing more Cubans coming across the borders from Mexico and Canada and arriving by air from other countries." "Florida sees spike in undocumented Cubans arriving".

    Save Money, Live Better, Get Shot at Walmart
    "Police: Disagreement over parking space led to Tallahassee Walmart shooting".

    Panhandle luvs "Ocean Enemy #1"
    "Southerland defeated former state Sen. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, 53 to 47 percent despite billboards calling him a 'Dirty Air Villain' and an opposition campaign calling him 'Ocean Enemy #1.'" "U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland says he was targeted by environmental groups over fishing issues".

    First bills roll in
    "First bills of the session filed". See also "Senate bills start rolling in". Background: "Florida lawmakers sworn in, face daunting work".

    Scott filling campaign coffer
    "While most Floridians were riveted on the presidential race, cash continued to flow Election Day into a political spending committee run by Gov. Rick Scott and focused on his re-election two years away. Scott, who a recent poll shows remains dogged by poor approval ratings, has pulled in about $4.5 million this year for the 2014 governor’s race, even as President Barack Obama’s victory and Democratic gains in the legislature and congressional delegation are emboldening potential rivals." "Scott already filling reelection war chest, as potential rivals fire warning shots". The Palm Beach Post editorial board wonder, "Will Rick Scott be re-elected in 2014?"

    A Jax thing
    "A Jacksonville police officer has quit after admitting he told colleagues that he would volunteer to assassinate President Barack Obama." "Police officer quits after comments about Obama".

    Rubio's "pandering denial of scientific fact"
    "Florida's junior U.S. senator lost no time after the election in making his way to Iowa to burnish his 2016 presidential prospects. But a GQ magazine interview released this week shows Sen. Marco Rubio has some growing to do if he wants to be seriously considered. Rubio refused to be pinned down on the simplest of questions: 'How old do you think the Earth is?'"
    He bobbed and weaved around the subject, disingenuously insisting he wasn't a scientist. A pandering denial of scientific fact may appeal to factions of the Republican Party, but it hardly establishes Rubio as a thoughtful future leader of the GOP, much less the country.
    "For Rubio, determining the age of the planet remains 'one of the great mysteries.'"
    Actually the greater mystery is how an ambitious political figure, with an undergraduate degree from the University of Florida, a law degree with the University of Miami and a father of four children, could decline to take a stand on a basic elementary school science question. It's especially troubling from a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
    "Rubio shouldn't pander to ignorance".

    "Florida Democrats far exceeded expectations"
    Aaron Deslatte: "Florida Democrats far exceeded expectations – winning the state for President Barack Obama, beating a future House speaker in Chris Dorworth, gaining legislative seats and apparently ousting two congressional Republicans in David Rivera and Allen West. Chicago-based Snyder Pickerill Media Group, a political advertising spin-off of Obama's political machine, grossed $4.3 million from Florida Democrats this year." "Political insiders have much to be thankful for".

    Florida's own rich-kid with the gaffe problem
    "The calls for [Jebbie] to step forward have grown louder since Mr. Romney told donors that Mr. Obama won the election by giving 'gifts' of government benefits to Hispanics, African-Americans and younger voters." This is rich: Those who would benefit from Jebbie once again in office claim that he is the "smart" one, and above the gaffes that plagued that other spoiled rich kid, Mittens Romney. Jeb's sycophants say
    “That stupid comment that came out of Mitt Romney’s mouth would never in a million years have come out of Jeb Bush’s mouth because he doesn’t think it,” said Ms. Navarro, the strategist, who sees Mr. Bush regularly at the Biltmore [sic], a gathering spot for local politicos. “This election result has made Jeb Bush’s voice that much wiser and that much more needed for the Republican Party: What he’s been warning about all along proved to be true.”
    "Jeb Bush in 2016? Not Too Early for Chatter". More: "Talk turns to Jeb Bush's possible presidential run in 2016".

    How soon the media forgets, particularly the second tier wannabes that pass for political "journalists" in many of the state's newspapers, who so desperately want a Floridian on the ticket.

    They forget that "Jeb!" is, if anything the proto-Mitt when it comes to rich-kid verbal gaffes, with a particular "habit of getting himself in trouble when making statements in front of reporters — particularly ones he doesn’t know are there."
    Bush’s history of politically unfortunate rhetoric goes back to 1994, when he famously answered a question on the campaign trail by saying he would do “probably nothing” for blacks if elected governor. He lost the race against incumbent Gov. Lawton Chiles by a hair — and many analysts believe his dismal showing among black voters (he got just 4 percent) was largely to blame.
    And, remember Jebbie's
    response to an impromptu sit-in by two African-American state legislators, state Sen. Kendrick Meek and Rep. Tony Hill, who in 2000 were protesting the implementation of Bush’s One Florida plan repealing affirmative action in state contracting and higher education. Irritated by the legislators’ refusal to leave his offices following a failed attempt at renegotiating the plan, Bush admonished staff — within earshot of a television reporter — to “throw their asses out.” Bush’s staff later tried to “convince” the reporter not to air the remarks, but they were splashed across the airwaves anyway, forcing the governor to backpedal into a cover story that he was actually referring to the media’s asses, not the lawmakers’.
    But there is so much more about "Jeb!" that render him unelectable:
    Bush likes to project the image of compassionate conservative in public. His reelection campaign commercials portray him as just “Jeb” — canoodling with schoolteachers and handing out $160-a-month prescription-drug subsidies to the elderly poor.
    But the man who wept in public and pleaded for privacy in the case of his drug-troubled daughter (she was recently caught with crack cocaine at a rehabilitation center) just can’t seem to stop making inappropriate, off-color remarks in private. For a man who has made “accountability” a cornerstone of his governorship, Bush’s inability to restrain his tongue — and his refusal to brook criticism for it — just seems troubling.
    And as if he hadn’t had enough bad publicity for one day, Bush is now said to have told lawmakers at that same meeting that he has a “devious plan” to kill a proposed bill to mandate reduced class sizes in the state. If voters approve the bill in November, Bush says, it will bust the state budget, and he has made opposing it a platform in his reelection campaign. So what was his “devious plan”? Bush was overheard on the reporter’s audiotape saying that if the class size amendment passes, he might offer a second voter initiative with funding — read tax increases — attached, so voters will see the full ramifications of their choice. But once again Bush’s unfortunate choice of words — rather than the debate about class size mandates — became the story.
    In his defense, Bush comes from a family that’s famous for its curious relationship with the English language. (Remember “Is our children learning?” the nugget from George W. Bush’s campaign for president?) But while his brother and father are more famous for a certain unfamiliarity with the rigors of the mother tongue, Jeb’s verbal slips tend to reveal a mean-spiritedness that seems less benign.

    "When Jeb Bush speaks, people cringe".

    This next Jeb-gaffe particularly fun, "Spanish sighs at Jeb's royal gaffe". More than that, the blunder is indicative of something more significant: as John McCain might say, Jebbie is "at a minimum, guilty of 'not being very bright'".

    Indeed, a former federal prosecutor who looked into Jeb's lucrative business dealings, and
    considered two possibilities -- Jeb was either crooked or stupid. At the time, he concluded Jeb was merely stupid.
    "Bush Family Value$".

    As explained in Time Magazine,
    basic competence has been an issue for Bush.
    "Celebrity Govs: What About Jeb and Arnold?" See generally: "Not a Smart Man" (scroll down).

    And then there's the purely craven side of the thing: you see, as Joe Conason points out, Jebbie "'is said by friends to be weighing financial and family considerations — between so many years in office and the recession his wealth took a dip, they said, and he has been working hard to restore it . . .'".
    Aside from his need to “restore” his depleted wealth, Jeb’s business dealings may well prove an insurmountable obstacle to a national candidacy, just as Romney’s business career became excess baggage for his presidential campaign. Known today only as another Bush brother, Jeb must be introduced to American voters. And among the first things they are likely to learn about him is the string of borderline business deals that built his original fortune in Florida real estate, which began three decades ago.
    While some aspects of the Jeb story may sound uplifting, there are certainly other episodes that will make voters’ hair stand on end.
    Consider his gamy relationship with Miguel Recarey, whose International Medical Centers stands accused of one of the largest Medicare swindles of all time. Before Recarey fled the country ahead of several federal indictments, Jeb had placed a call on his behalf to Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler — a Cabinet secretary serving at the pleasure of Jeb’s daddy, President George Herbert Walker Bush. Recarey paid Jeb a sweet $75,000 for that lobbying effort, which forestalled government action to stop Recarey’s skimming of millions in Medicare dollars. Although Jeb has denied that Recarey — a Mafia associate — hired him to importune Heckler, both the fugitive and the former HHS secretary have since confirmed those circumstances.
    After Recarey fled Miami, Jeb gradually grew rich through real estate investments, thanks to his connections with the Cuban-American community in South Florida. To show his gratitude, Jeb sought a presidential pardon from his dad for Orlando Bosch, a murderous anti-Castro militant denounced by his father’s own attorney general Richard Thornburgh as “an unreformed terrorist” responsible for the murder of dozens of innocent people. That kind of thing is acceptable among the South Florida Cubans, but may not look so good in the post-9/11 era to the rest of the country.
    Then there is Jeb’s career as governor, a saga that includes his vow to sign legislation that would have awarded Florida’s disputed electoral votes to his brother in November 2000, and his attempted intervention in the case of Terri Schiavo, the brain-dead woman whose husband and parents fought over whether to turn off her respirator. Interference in that sad matter by congressional leaders and other right-wing busybodies was gross exploitation of a family tragedy — and the Schiavo affair became a turning point in the 2006 Republican midterm debacle.
    So yes — run, Jeb, run! The fact is that almost any presidential candidate from Florida represents a full-employment program for investigative journalism — and the “smarter” Bush brother is no exception.
    "Run, Jeb, Run! Another Bush, Another Target-Rich Presidential Campaign".

<< Home