FLORIDA POLITICS
Since 2002, daily Florida political news and commentary

 

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Welcome To Florida Politics

Thanks for visiting. On a 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.

 

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The Blog for Sunday, December 09, 2012

Spouse of Bush-Cheney lawyer recruited to lead FlaDems

    "Two of Florida's most prominent Democrats, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, have recruited a new candidate to lead the state Democratic Party: Allison Tant, a top fundraiser in Tallahassee."
    Tant is married to top trial lawyer Barry Richard, a lifelong Democrat best known for leading the Bush-Cheney Florida legal team during the 2000 recount battle.
    "Former lobbyist Allison Tant joins race to lead Florida Democratic Party".


    "Perhaps he can blame that on the colleges and universities, too"

    Randy Schultz reminds us that "the people who run Florida’s public colleges and universities didn’t cut $300 million from this year’s higher education budget. The people who run Florida’s public colleges and universities didn’t approved an unneeded 12th university, which will drain money from the other, underfinanced 11."

    Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature did those things. But to hear Gov. Scott, he’s not the problem with Florida’s public colleges and universities. The problem is the people who run Florida’s public colleges and universities.
    "His reelection date is nearly two years away, but Gov. Scott acts as if it’s two weeks away. News releases tout every bit of positive economic news, down to the arrival of new jobs at a convenience store — all because Rick Scott’s CEO approach has brought salvation to the benighted state forced to live without him until January 2011."

    The governor disparaged public education during his first year in office. His first budget cut more from public schools than the Legislature did. Someone finally clued in the governor. When he signed the 2011-12 budget at the tea-party friendly pseudo-city known as The Villages, he vetoed some spending and called on the Legislature to divert the money to education. Which the Legislature couldn’t do. But we saw what was coming.

    So this year’s budget contained $1 billion more for schools, or $300 million less than Gov. Scott cut last year. For next year, the governor has vowed to hold school spending at its current level. Given inflation and student growth, the schools will fall behind. Then there’s that Tallahassee-ordered “merit pay” system for teachers. If Gov. Scott is serious, he will find money for it from the state budget. If he isn’t, he will demand that local school districts find it.

    Having blessed the schools with his beneficence, Gov. Scott has turned to the colleges and universities. As Tallahassee has cut and cut money for higher education, administrators have raised tuition. Gov. Scott has pledged to cut the cost of living in Florida — except when it comes to property insurance. His “vision” for higher education, which he issued in June, called for Florida to be “No. 1 in university and college affordability.”

    In fact, the state has been close to that for years. University tuition ranked 45th until the recent increases, and has risen all the way to 41st. Not good enough. Two weeks ago, Gov. Scott issued his “$10,000 challenge” to the 28 state colleges, which until not long ago were two-year community colleges. The governor wants the colleges to offer a four-degree that costs no more than $10,000 — nice, round political figure — and leads to a job. . . .

    Last week, as Gov. Scott was pursuing his “vision” for higher education, he was having to find the third leader in barely a year for his supposedly transformational Department of Economic Opportunity. Perhaps he can blame that on the colleges and universities, too.

    "Scott is the ‘challenge’ for higher education in Florida".


    "The buck, it sometimes seems, stops nowhere"

    William March: "Trying to figure out who pays for campaigns by members of the Florida Legislature has become a bewildering trek through a morass of anonymous, independent committees funneling money back and forth among themselves. The buck, it sometimes seems, stops nowhere." "Florida lawmakers seek reform of independent campaign committees".


    "Another hat in the ring"

    "A third Democrat in the Florida House has declared his candidacy for the post of minority leader for the 2014-2016 cycle. Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, entered the fray Thursday, joining Reps. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg and Mia Jones of Jacksonville. All three are in the running to succeed Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, after the 2014 election." "Another hat in the ring".


    The next time you whine about their pay or pensions . . .

    . . . recall this example, of so many examples, of "the bravery of firefighters". The Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board: "Finding a suspected meth lab at a tony, Lido Beach high-rise may be the surprise of the year. There was nothing surprising, however, about the bravery of Sarasota firefighters, who last Tuesday risked their own safety -- as they often do -- to rescue residents from a blaze in the building."

    This episode was unusual, but it is representative of first responders' everyday commitment to putting the public's well being before their own.
    "Editorial: Everyday bravery".


    Research challenges notion of STEM as economic elixir

    "As STEM has become an education buzzword in recent years, a steady stream of research has emerged that challenges the notion of STEM as an economic elixir. In some STEM careers, the employment picture is downright lousy." "More STEM degrees may not equal more jobs".


    "You lied to me"

    "Now that former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist is a Democrat, pretty much everyone in Florida's political world expects him to seek his old job. 'I will consider it, and I will think about it,' Crist told The Associated Press by phone while boating off of Miami and before a planned dinner Saturday evening with former Democratic governor and Sen. Bob Graham."

    Earlier Saturday, Florida Republicans gathered for a meeting and said they will be extra motivated to re-elect Gov. Rick Scott if his opponent is Crist, who left the GOP during his 2010 run for Senate.

    "Bring it on," Peter Feaman, the party's national committeeman, told a room of Republican activists. "That man sat at my house, in my kitchen, at my breakfast table and told me he was a Ronald Reagan Republican. OK, I'm putting my boots on, because guess what? You lied to me." . . .

    Republicans, anticipating the switch, have been attacking him for months. As Crist campaigned with President Barack Obama and other Democrats during the fall, Republicans ran a television ad and issued scores of press releases pointing out his previous conservative positions.

    "If he runs for his old job, Crist will have better name recognition than any other Democrat seeking the governor's seat, including former state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who lost a hard-fought campaign to Scott."
    Scott's approval ratings haven't come close to what Crist had in office. Scott, a former hospital chain CEO and tea party favorite who never ran for office before spending nearly $80 million of his and his family's money to win election, isn't considered a natural politician. He can be an awkward speaker, and it has taken a while for him to grow comfortable in the spotlight.

    But that doesn't mean Crist would have an easy time winning. During primary elections, only about 20 percent of voters turn out, and they are the most faithful in the party. Activists on both sides will remember the many elections in which they fought Crist, who often called himself a Ronald Reagan and Jeb Bush Republican.

    "Florida's Crist may run again; GOP says its ready".

    Meanwhile, Lloyd Dunkelberger writes that the "potential Crist-Scott showdown would provide a political drama of the highest order in the nation’s fourth-largest state. The matchup also presents plenty of risks and rewards for each side." "In a Crist-Scott showdown, opportunity for drama".


    Runnin' "nonprofits" like a bidness

    "Top managers at South Florida's main blood bank charged meals with co-workers that featured alcohol and cost nearly $1,000, and one executive took limousine rides worth almost $1,400, according to expense-report receipts obtained by the Orlando Sentinel." "Execs charged meals, limos to South Florida blood bank".


    Mack's last act . . . benefits "sugar daddy"

    The Sun Sentinel editorial board: "He came to Washington with a good name: U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, son of a U.S. senator and great grandson of baseball icon Connie Mack. But he leaves Congress under a political cloud after his last-minute push on a bill that would benefit a key political donor."

    Mack, who lost his race to unseat U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and has about a month left in Congress, chairs a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee. Last week, the Fort Myers Republican scheduled a vote on the only piece of legislation he has pushed through his subcommittee this year: a bill that would pressure Argentina to compensate American investors hurt when it defaulted on its foreign debt more than 10 years ago.

    According to a front-page story in USA Today, Mack's bill would largely benefit Paul Singer, a New York venture capitalist whose companies lost more than $1 billion in Argentina. Singer also is a major contributor to Republican races, including Mack and his wife, U.S. Rep. Mary Bono Mack of California, who lost her re-election campaign.

    To call Singer a "sugar daddy" is within the bounds of reason. Employees of his hedge fund contributed $39,413 to Connie Mack's failed Senate campaign. And a political action committee Singer backed spent more than $400,000 attacking Bono Mack's opponent, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

    So you can understand why skeptics might see Mack's final move as more proof that big-moneyed interests expect a return on their investments in political candidates, even as those candidates are on their way out the door.

    "Connie Mack leaves on sour note".


    What liberal media?

    The Daytona Beach News Journal editors share two less than impressive editorials with us this morning: see "Provisions of Obamacare threaten state budget" and "Full Legislature should weigh prison privatization" ("Legislature should endorse Scott's privatization plans to save precious tax dollars and free up money for other critical areas of the state budget").


    Will Scott block this federal help?

    The Tallahassee Democrat editors: "Without a steady infusion of fresh water, more salt water finds its way into the bay, and the oysters can’t survive. Oyster harvesters tell of raking in three or four bags a day, when once they were able to fill 20 bags with the world-famous oysters. Help has come to the area. A $2.7 million federal grant will provide jobs for the oystermen." "We need water".


    Mary McCarty 2?

    "Three years after a sobbing Mary McCarty told a judge she used her Palm Beach County Commission seat for personal gain, the longtime politician will speak to Delray Beach business leaders about the roughly two years she spent in federal lockup."

    In what some are calling an eyebrow-raising coming out party and others say is just a sly way to boost numbers at a little-attended event, McCarty on Friday will talk at a closed-door meeting of the government affairs committee of the Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce.

    McCarty didn’t return a phone call for comment last week about her first semi-public appearance since she was sent to prison in June 2009. But tongues are wagging throughout the city that launched her political career in 1987 when it elected her to the city commission and then was tarred by allegations that it helped perpetuate her misdeeds.

    “This is her inauguration. Mary McCarty 2,” said Vincent Dole, a retired venture capitalist who blogs about city goings-on. “It’s a concerted effort to try to help her rehabilitate her image. She wants back in and this is her first step.” . . .

    [Others agree] They say they have seen McCarty’s fingerprints on various issues. Her brother, Tallahassee lobbyist Brian Ballard, on Tuesday won a $15,000 contract to persuade state lawmakers to help the city regulate sober houses. She has long been close with outgoing Mayor Woodie McDuffie. Some say she is advising attorney Tom Carney in his upcoming March mayoral race. Carney vehemently denied it, adding that he is tired of the lies linking him with McCarty.

    "Is ex-commissioner McCarty making a comeback?".


    Florida endangering the safety and development of vulnerable children

    The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "The Justice Department says that by sticking children in nursing homes Florida is violating federal law that prohibits discrimination against disabled people and endangering the safety and development of vulnerable children." "We're failing to protect our children".


    "Florida's sucking the exhaust of perennial academic also-rans Alabama and Mississippi"

    Jebbie Bush's sorry education legacy: The Orlando Sentinel editorial board points out that in "2011, the state posted a mediocre 71 percent graduate rate. How sorry is that? Florida's mark bested only five other states." Even today, in late 2012, with "Florida's sucking the exhaust of perennial academic also-rans Alabama and Mississippi, there remains plenty of work to do."

    Where's Mister Scott in all this?"

    Dismal numbers — such as only 57 percent of black males and 47 percent of disabled students graduating — may make Florida attractive to Walmart. But relocating businesses of the kind Scott wants prefer to set up shop in areas with educated workforces.
    Graduation rates reflect a grim reality in Florida".


    Another "mini-Jeb"? Really?

    As Florida continues to suck "the exhaust of perennial academic also-rans Alabama and Mississippi", Florida's media companies likewise continue to push Jeb Bush retreads as the "solution" to Florida's education difficulties.

    Last month, Orlando Sentinel columnist Beth Kassab declared that, when it comes to Florida's education commissioner,

    Everybody has an eye on Tony Bennett ["the Jeb Bush of Indiana"], the shake-'em-up reformer with an impressive list of accomplishments as Indiana's top education chief. He lost his re-election bid earlier this month — and Indiana lost its place as a reform leader — in an upset by a veteran teacher and union leader.
    However, as we queried in response to that column,
    Really, Beth? Do we really need another mini-"Jeb!" running Florida's education system into the ground? A failed Republican who could not keep his seat in a Republican "stronghold" like Indiana?

    And, although "Jeb!" is running as fast as he can away from his Indiana flop, the fact is that Indiana's repudiation of Tony Bennett was a flat out electoral rejection of Jebbie and his "reform" freak show. Although

    many states have borrowed from Bush’s education agenda, few have embraced it as fully as Indiana. Superintendent-elect Glenda Ritz’s supporters say these policies — A-F grading for schools, teacher evaluations, performance based pay, expansive voucher programs and expanded charter school options — are why Bennett lost earlier this month.
    "Jeb Bush On Tony Bennett’s Defeat: ‘It’s Not My Education Agenda’".

    More: "Glenda Ritz Unseats Tony Bennett In ‘Referendum’ On Indiana Education Policy". See also "Incumbent Superintendent Tony Bennett Concedes Race To Ritz" ("Bennett had been a critical force in moving forward education priorities of Gov. Mitch Daniels’ administration: school voucher programs, merit pay for teachers and expansion of charter schools, policies many teachers criticize.")

    "Oh no . . . Not another mini-"Jeb!" (scroll down).

    But Ms. Kassab is at it again, in the context of "Common Core"*. She initially demonstrates her Jebian bona fides with this silly remark:

    Teachers actually like Common Core. And, for the most part, the unions like it too.
    Really, Beth, are you suggesting there is a difference between "teachers" and "teachers unions"?

    Folks like Jeb Bush (and apparently Kassab) want us to believe that "unions" dropped out of the sky to force workers - in this case teachers - to read little red books and speak together in groups (err ... evil "collectives"). Sorry, Beth, "teachers unions" are just "teachers" who elect other "teachers" to speak for them at the bargaining table (where, by the way, school boards have the unilateral authority to determine all terms of their "contracts" with "teachers")**

    That aside, Kassab's larger and continuing point is just this - Florida needs more Jebbiness. She writes today that

    Odds are pretty good — excellent, in fact — that Tony Bennett will be Florida's next education commissioner.

    When it comes to school reform, Bennett was the Jeb Bush of Indiana and has a resume long on Florida-inspired changes he pushed on the Hoosiers to show for it.

    Bennett was fired by the people of Indiana last month as that state's elected education chief. He lost the election to a veteran teacher and union leader who ran against him. . . .

    [H]e didn't get the union vote. He was attacked by teachers for changes to collective bargaining rights and his advocacy for charter schools and vouchers. . . .

    Bennett, who started out as a biology teacher and basketball coach, described his relationship with Bush, who usually gets his way when it comes to political battles on education in Florida, as "very strong."

    Bennett serves as chairman of Chiefs for Change, an organization closely affiliated with Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education.

    "Common Core should be priority for next education commissioner".

    So, does Florida really need Indiana loser Bennett - a mere "mini-Jeb" - as its next education commissioner? Well, six years after Jeb Bush stepped down, after eight years of rule, Florida is still sucking "the exhaust of perennial academic also-rans Alabama and Mississippi". Any questions?

    - - - - - - - - - -

    * Kassab explains "Common Core" this way: "Common Core means that instead of teaching a small amount about a lot of things, teachers will teach more about fewer things. Students should come away with a deeper knowledge about what's important. For example, research has shown that understanding fractions is critical to understanding algebra. So Common Core calls for fifth graders to spend more time learning fractions."

    ** Kassab's comrade, Scott Maxwell, once put it this way:

    Florida has one of the worst-funded school systems in America.

    Compounding the problem is the contempt Republican legislators have for teachers. That's right — teachers.

    Sure, they'll try to tell you they just hate the unions. But who do you think comprises the union? It's your son's math instructor, your daughter's music teacher — and their soccer coach.

    Underpaid educators have become the enemy.

    In fact, the overall demonization of the working class is one of corporate America's most successful coups within the GOP — a party that once championed the rights of the common man.

    Nowadays, union-bashing isn't simply a plank in the GOP platform; it's the foundation.

    "For teacher pay, unions and union-haters should compromise".



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