Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Florida Political News for July 18, 2012

Leonard Pitts Jr. gets blunt: The name of the game is voter suppression. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Floridians "lack of sound judgment could once again reverberate"

Fabiola Santiago: "Who can understand Floridians?"

They don’t like the governor they elected, but they like his policies — even those found to be constitutionally questionable by the courts.

They overwhelmingly support the flawed Stand Your Ground Law used by some people to get away with murder, but reject the Affordable Care Act that would make it possible for people with pre-existing medical conditions to get insurance.

If one is to believe the results of a Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 poll of 800 voters likely to vote in the Nov. 6 election, the conservative Florida that elected Rick Scott hasn’t grown any wiser in the 18 months he’s been in office.

Never mind the ample media coverage of Scott’s controversial initiatives.

Floridians support the governor’s voter purge, despite evidence that citizens have been removed and that minorities have been targeted.

They support Scott’s attempt to drug-test welfare recipients, even though that measure was struck down by a federal judge who said it violates the Fourth Amendment ban on illegal searches and seizure of a class of people.

Despite detailed reports about Scott’s outright lies about the effects of the president’s healthcare reform and that the U.S. Supreme Court largely upheld its constitutionality, 52 percent of Florida voters oppose the Affordable Care Act because they think it will make the healthcare system worse.

These are the same voters who give Scott low approval ratings and elected him knowing that he was the chief executive of a hospital chain accused of perpetrating a billion-dollar Medicare fraud and of violating other federal laws mostly while he was in charge.
Brad Coker of the nonpartisan Mason-Dixon Polling & Research "says Floridians are 'a little weird' but not unique. Their partisan opinions on complex issues are a sign of the times. ... They consume quick bites of news and form opinions that confirm their gut-reaction to issues based on their experiences, perceptions and values — not considering details or nuances of law. Quite a scary formula."
There’s more of this decision-making to come in the general election, and unfortunately for the nation, our lack of sound judgment could once again reverberate all the way to the White House.
"Poll shows that for Floridians, facts get in the way".

HD 116

"HD 116: Jose Felix Diaz Has the Financial Edge on Ana Rivas Logan".

Teabagger cash flows to West

"GOP Rep. Allen West's $2.3 million for the quarter ending June 30 continued the contribution juggernaut that has allowed the one-term incumbent to amass nearly $10 million so far in his first re-election campaign." "Rep. Allen West leads fundraising race among congressional candidates in Florida".

SD 25

"SD 25: Joe Abruzzo Waits to See Who Emerges in GOP Primary Battle".

Scott's "politically motivated power plays"

"In a cost-saving move affecting nearly 3,000 Department of Corrections employees, the prison system announced plans Tuesday to privatize inmate health care services with two companies."

AFSCME state president Jeanette Wynn, a retired hospital attendant from Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee, said Scott was making "politically motivated power plays" to reward Republican campaign contributors with state contracts.
"Prisons will contract for health care". See also "Prisons will contract for health care" and "Department of Corrections to Move Forward With Health Privatization".

Scott scrapes bottom of the barrel

"Scott wants Florida’s congressional delegation to dig deeper into a growing scandal involving the manipulation of important benchmark interest rates, which he says could reach beyond Barclays Capital and impact Florida businesses and residents."

He also wants the U.S. representatives and senators to address allegations that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 2008, when under the direction of President Obama’s Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, may have been advised of problems with the reporting of the London interbank offered rate “Libor.”

“Based on what has been reported already, these inappropriate banking practices have cost hard-working Floridians money,” Scott wrote to Florida’s congressional members on Tuesday.

“As investigations into other institutions proceed, the question that must be answered is, 'How much money has this cost Florida families?’”
Barclays has agreed to pay $453 million, admitting it lied in its Libor submissions regarding borrowing costs.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is among a handful of state attorneys general already trying to determine if they have jurisdiction over banks found manipulating lending benchmarks following British-based Barclays settlement with both U.S. and U.K. authorities.
"Rick Scott: How Much Is 'Libor' Scandal Impacting Florida?" See also "Gov. Rick Scott urges Florida's members of Congress to look at Libor scandal".

Wingnuts won't get their Rubio

"Sen. Marco Rubio seems to have fallen off the shortlist of vice-presidential candidates for Republican Mitt Romney. The right wing isn’t happy." "Bye-bye Marco Rubio in Romney veepstakes?".

Scott’s refuses to expand health insurance for the poor

Advocates for "the poor are ramping up lobbying in an effort to persuade state legislators to block Gov. Rick Scott’s refusal to expand health insurance for the poor, under the Affordable Care Act." "Advocates for hospitals and the poor push back on Florida’s refusal of federal Medicaid money to expand health coverage".

HD 17

"Primary Profile: Rep. Renuart faces challenge in new district".

Mica holds major fundraising edge over Adams

"New fundraising figures confirm what many Central Florida Republicans already expected: veteran U.S. Rep. John Mica of Winter Park will hold a major edge over freshman U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams of Orlando going into their Aug. 14 primary. According to new election reports, Mica raised about $400,000 in April, May and June to give him about $1.3 million going into the homestretch. Adams netted about $129,000 to give her about $500,000 cash-on-hand." "10-term incumbent Mica outraises Adams by 3-1 margin".

"Tallahassee is an incubator for hubris"

"As voters in suburban Tampa prepare to nominate a state Senate candidate, the issue of gambling is prompting allegations of campaign dirty tricks."

A gambling lobbyist wrote a fundraising letter on behalf of former Senate President Tom Lee of Brandon, but Lee calls the move "a hatchet job" designed to inaccurately paint him as pro-gambling in his Aug. 14 primary battle with Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview.

The race between Burgin and Lee is being fought in east Hills­borough, an area with many social conservatives who oppose gambling, which both candidates also say they oppose.

Gambling lobbyist Marc Dunbar wrote the letter to his clients in which he praised Lee as a "true champion for the industry" who as a senator a decade ago teamed with liberal Democrats such as former Sen. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, "a good friend" of gambling, to support racetracks, poker rooms and voter-approved slot machines.

With Lee back in the Senate, Dunbar wrote, Florida can be "a true high stakes commercial gambling market" similar to "Las Vegas and Macau." A Hills­borough County resident who donated money to Burgin's campaign, Patricia McClure, gave the letter to the Times/Herald.

"It's an obvious hatchet job on me," Lee said. "Marc Dunbar has an ax to grind. Tallahassee is an incubator for hubris. These people have long since forgotten about the interests of their clients."
"Lobbyist's gambling letter surfaces in competitive Hillsborough Senate primary". See also "State Senate race gets personal". Related: "SD 24: Tom Lee Has Fundraising Edge on Rachel Burgin".

SD 6: John Thrasher Heavy Favorite

"SD 6: John Thrasher Heavy Favorite to Keep Seat".

FlaBaggers in a dither

"Three state Supreme Court justices whom critics have deemed judicial activists have amassed nearly $1 million to assure their retention in November."

With unprecedented contributions rolling in for a judicial contest of any kind in Florida, the three justices up for retention collectively picked up $455,310 -- the bulk from attorneys and law firms -- during the second quarter of the year. The combined number for Supreme Court justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince almost equaled their first-quarter totals.

The cash donations come as the Florida Bar is running a $300,000 parallel retention education campaign.

The justices have spent more than $240,000, mostly on campaign consultants and campaign staff, according to state Division of Elections records. Justices are required to appoint campaign finance committees because they are prohibited from soliciting contributions personally.

The anti-retention effort is being headed by the Orlando-based Restore Justice2012, an outgrowth of efforts of local tea party activist Jesse Phillips.
"Funds to Retain Florida Supreme Court Justices Near an 'Unprecedented' $1 Million".

Florida's 3.6 percent

"President Barack Obama has reiterated his support for a tax plan that would maintain the current rate for most Americans while increasing the levy paid by individuals earning more than $200,000 annually and couples making more than $250,000."

If that happens, a quarter-million Florida households would see their taxes rise. About 256,000 Florida families and individuals reported incomes of more than $200,000 to the U.S. census; that's about 3.6 percent of the roughly 7.2 million households included in the latest survey.

How bad would that hurt?

For an individual making $300,000 annually, the new rate under Obama would mean about $3,500 more a year in taxes. Someone earning $1 million would pay about $35,000 more, according to tax calculators created by liberal and conservative groups. ...

"The problem with continuing tax cuts for the rich is that they don't spend it," said Bruce Nissen, director of research at the Florida International University Center for Labor Research and Studies. "We don't need to increase savings — that's not the problem."

In Florida, it's difficult to determine which individuals and incomes would be most affected, although state wage statistics provide a few clues. In 2012, earners with the top average wages described themselves as CEOs; others in the top 20 include medical providers — dentists, psychiatrists and oral surgeons — as well as lawyers and financial planners.
"Raising taxes on rich would hit few in Florida — but could affect small businesses".

"Candidate didn’t disclose"

"Nikasha Wells, a candidate for the Florida House from District 88 in western Palm Beach County, lost a judgment for $44,025 in Circuit Court late last year, but did not include that amount among her liabilities when she filed a financial disclosure form with the State Department of Elections in June." "Florida House candidate didn’t disclose $44,000 judgment for rent nonpayment".

Scott loses another one

"Judge: Florida improperly shifted juvenile-detention costs to counties".

"Florida’s shrinking workforce"

"The latest review of Florida’s economy continues to cloud Gov. Rick Scott’s claims that his policies are prompting an eye-catching drop in unemployment."

The Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research reported Tuesday that the 1.3 percent decline in the state’s jobless level between the end of 2011 and May can be attributed chiefly to Floridians dropping out of the workforce.

The unemployment rate in December was 9.9 percent and in May clocked in at 8.6 percent. But EDR found that if the same number of Floridians had been seeking jobs in May, the actual unemployment level would have been 9.5 percent, a more modest reduction.

“Sixty-nine percent of the drop in the unemployment rate is due to people dropping out of the labor force,” the analysis concluded.

The role of Florida’s shrinking workforce has been cited before. EDR raised a similar caution last month about April’s rate, which was hailed by Scott and Florida Republican leaders for marking a three-year low in Florida’s jobless level.
"Study: Drop in people seeking jobs main reason for drop in Florida unemployment rate". See also "Economic report shows most of jobless rate drop due to shrinking workforce".

SD 35: Margolis Faces Well-Funded GOPer

"SD 35: Gwen Margolis Faces A Well-Funded GOP Opponent in John Couriel".

HD 81

"Two men who vied for the same seat several years ago will square off again during the Aug. 14 Democratic primary election, this time seeking the newly drawn District 81 seat in the Florida House of Representatives." "Once more with feeling: Rader, Perman vie for Florida House seat".

HD 116

"HD 116: Jose Felix Diaz Has the Financial Edge on Ana Rivas Logan".

Mini-Mack mixes it up

"Barack Obama vs. Mitt Romney and Bill Nelson vs. Connie Mack IV may be different races, but Mack is determined to make them inextricably entwined." "Mack's message to Republicans: Supporting Sen. Bill Nelson is like supporting the president".

Florida’s voter purge is back

The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Like the flu you can’t shake, Florida’s attempted voter purge is back. This strain may not be any better." "Federal list still no reason for Florida to rush voter purge". See also "Elections Supervisors: Search for Noncitizens May Resume after August Primary".