Friday, July 13, 2012

Today's Florida Political News and Punditry

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry.

Salacious allegations against Lt. Gov. Carroll bolstered by polygraph results

"A titillating sex scandal has become the talk of sleepy summertime Tallahassee, with Florida's No. 2 elected official supposedly in the starring role. Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll rarely makes news as Gov. Rick Scott's second in command, but accusations of sexual misconduct made by a former employee now facing criminal charges have put Carroll in the spotlight and have her defenders saying she's the victim of a 'smear campaign.'" "Sex scandal becomes the talk of Florida's capital".

But the "attorney for a former aide to Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll defended his client’s credibility Thursday, saying the governor’s office had known since November about some of the explosive allegations — including a so-called 'sexual escapade' between Carroll and a female staffer in her office."

“We think she’s credible and she carries herself as someone who doesn’t throw these allegations around,” said Steven Andrews, a Tallahassee attorney representing Carletha Cole. “Everything she’s said to us has been self-corroborated by public records.”

On Thursday, Lane Wright, a spokesperson for the governor’s office, called the claims “outrageous.”

Cole, 49, was arrested and charged in October with disclosing an illegally taped conversation to a Florida Times Union newspaper reporter. The taped conversation involved Cole and Carroll’s chief of staff, John Konkus, talking about interoffice drama.

Cole was charged with releasing the tape, not with actually recording the conversation. If convicted of the third-degree felony of disclosing it, she faces up to five years in prison.

In Florida, it is illegal to record a private conversation without the consent of its participants. Cole denies making the recordings.

The criminal case turned nasty this month when Cole, in court documents, accused Carroll of engaging in sex, lies and illegal audio taping at her office in the state Capitol.
"The salacious allegations set off a public relations battle, with Cole painted as either an innocent whistleblower under attack or as a disgruntled former employee carrying out a vicious vendetta."
Bolstering Cole’s credibility is a polygraph test she took about her claim that she had walked in on Carroll and a female staffer engaged in what appeared to be a sex act in Carroll’s office. The polygraph was administered last October, shortly after Cole’s arrest, by Timothy Robinson, who retired as chief polygraph examiner from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and now works independently.

“I remember asking those questions,” he told The Herald/Times on Thursday. “I found no signs of deception, and found her very credible. That was my decision, and I still stand by it.”

Carroll, a U.S. Navy veteran who is married with three children, told the Associated Press earlier this week that the allegations were “totally false and absurd.”
"Cole was fired in September 2011 for complaining about the office to the Florida Times-Union, Carroll’s hometown paper in Jacksonville." "Is Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll’s former aide seeking vengeance or justice?".

Nancy Smith believes that it is "a little premature to join this wake of buzzards in Tallahassee, licking their chops and circling Carroll as if she were this week's blue plate special." "Scandal Shmandel: Jennifer Carroll Could Be Mitt Romney's Secret Weapon".

Dems call for probe to explain why TB info not disclosed

"On the heels of a Palm Beach Post story detailing secrecy surrounding the worst tuberculosis outbreak in 20 years, the state Senate’s ranking Democrat called today for a probe to explain why information on the North Florida outbreak was not provided to state lawmakers before they voted to close A.G. Holley Hospital. The Lantana facility was Florida’s only TB hospital. A fast-growing strain concentrated in Jacksonville has been linked to 13 deaths and 99 illnesses, including six infected children." "Florida Senate leader calls for probe into TB outbreak". See also "Senate Democratic Leader Rich seeks TB investigation" and "Florida Dems Want Senate Probe of 'Troubling' A.G. Holley Closing".

Mica fights for "right to 'bare arms'"

Scott Maxwell thought he "knew about most of the testy political debates — until John Mica alerted me to a new one this week. In a campaign mailer, the Winter Park congressman vowed to stand up for Americans' right to 'bare arms.'" "In gun news, it's NRA vs. sheriffs, Mica vs. English language".

Aug. 14 Primary Begins

"Absentee Ballots for Aug. 14 Primary Begin Going Out".

Hialeah slots

"Plans for slot machines at Hialeah Racetrack have been scaled back and won't come online until later than expected, leading state economists to lower their slot revenue projections." "State lowers slot revenue projections, anticipating Hialeah delay".

"Ad attacking Nelson is riddled with false statements"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Two years after the U.S. Supreme Court's overreaching Citizens United decision that allowed corporations to spend freely to influence elections, the unhealthy results are clear."

Corporations are spending millions to advance their agendas, and too often they are hiding behind tax rules to do it secretly. For example, an outfit called American Commitment is airing an ad attacking Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson that is riddled with false statements about health care reform. The Internal Revenue Service should get serious about investigating these sorts of organizations that are effectively laundering anonymous contributions, and at the very least the contributions should be publicly disclosed.

Voters in Florida and other swing states are being flooded with television attack ads that too often stretch the truth and too often are paid for by organizations with nebulous sounding names. The so-called super PACs, which can raise unlimited amounts of money, are bad enough. Republican strategist Karl Rove's American Crossroads super PAC has reserved more than $6 million in air time to attack Nelson. But at least those super PACs have to disclose their donors. It turns out corporations are steering more of their money to other types of tax-exempt groups such as American Commitment to avoid being held accountable for their mudslinging.
"Mystery money corruption".

"Jeb’s deformed creation"

The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Gov. Scott has noticed the growing crowd brandishing pitchforks and torches. So he is trying to downplay his role in grafting grotesque new parts onto the Frankenstein Comprehensive Assessment Test."

Florida’s current governor might be starting to realize what others have known for years. The FCAT has become a monster. Jeb Bush took a test designed to gauge and guide student improvement, and jolted it with voucher politics. With Wednesday’s release of FCAT-based grades for middle and elementary schools, Jeb’s deformed creation once again stalks public school halls and classrooms.
"Gov. Scott helped create the FCAT monster".

Another fine Florida export

"Several times over the last 18 months, federal agents have raided pain clinics - alleged 'pill mills' - across South Florida. There has been success in battling what, prosecutors say, was a virtually unregulated pain clinic industry; much of it in Palm Beach County. ... Now, though, the pain and problem is spreading to Florida's neighbors to the north." "FL 'pill mill' problem migrating to other states?".

HD 82

"A crowded field of five Republicans will vie in the Aug. 14 primary to replace incumbent Rep. William D. Snyder, R-Stuart, in newly redrawn state House District 82. ... The winner will effectively win the seat." "5 Republicans vie for state House 82 in Martin, north Palm Beach County".

Scott "quick to act and slow to consider consequences"

The Palm Beach Post editors: "Gov. Scott has dropped his flawed push to remove thousands of alleged non-citizens from Florida’s voter rolls. And now, at last, his administration is releasing his list of suspects for the world to see."

This week, after consulting with the state attorney general’s office, Secretary of State Ken Detzner agreed to release the list. It would be interesting to see just how many people on it are citizens entitled to vote. Of the roughly 2,700 names from the list already sent to county election supervisors in April, dozens turned out to be legal voters who found themselves required to prove their citizenship or risk being removed from the rolls. This master list is sure to contain many, many more.

In its botched voter purge, as in so many things, the Scott administration was quick to act and slow to consider consequences.
"Voter ‘purge’ list unquestionably a public record".

Affordable Care Act would boost Medicaid payments to Florida doctors

"In a move aimed at getting doctors to treat more low-income patients, the federal health overhaul likely will lead to increased Medicaid payments to Florida primary-care physicians. The federal Affordable Care Act, which was largely upheld last month by the U.S. Supreme Court, requires higher Medicaid payments to primary-care physicians in 2013 and 2014. Florida Republican lawmakers had not started moving forward with the higher payments because of their broader opposition to the act, which they deride as 'Obamacare.'" "Federal health care law would boost Medicaid payments to Florida doctors". See also "Law Would Boost Medicaid Payments to Florida Doctors".

Majority of Florida voters oppose Affordable Care Act

"A majority of Florida voters oppose the national healthcare law and half want it repealed, a new Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 poll shows two weeks after President Barack Obama’s signature achievement was largely upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court."

Only 43 percent of voters statewide support the Affordable Care Act and 52 percent oppose it, with 5 percent undecided. With the exception of southeast Florida, more voters think the law will make the healthcare system worse.

More voters also favor the state opting out of provisions of the law, something Gov. Rick Scott has already said it would do.

And 50 percent want to see Republicans follow through on their vow to repeal the law, with 43 percent saying it should remain.

In perhaps the most worrisome sign for Obama and Democrats, only 39 percent of voters 65 years or older support the law. Seniors make up about 30 percent of the overall state’s electorate.
"Poll: Most Floridians disapprove of federal healthcare law, half want it repealed".

SoFla GOPers cowering under their makeup tables

"South Florida GOP: Obama Naïve to Downplay Threat of Dictator Hugo Chavez".

"One in ten Florida adults cannot vote because of a felony conviction, by far the nation's highest rate"

"One in ten Florida adults -- and nearly one in four African Americans – cannot vote because of a felony conviction, by far the highest rate in the nation, a report released on Thursday indicated." "Florida leads nation in excluding ex-felons from polls".

Union "boss"?

The newspaper owned by a slum lord - "whose civic influence is about as positive as that of the Crips, the Bloods and the Mexican mafia" - has the temerity to refer to elected union officers as "union bosses": "Judge approves bail money for ex-teachers union boss".

"Mortgage fraud investigation rate is the highest in the country"

"A new report shows Florida's mortgage fraud investigation rate is the highest in the country, but slowing." "Report: Florida has highest mortgage fraud investigation rate". Related: "Florida foreclosures rise in first half of 2012".

"The NRA's Politburo of Bullets"

Daniel Ruth: "It always has been one of the great disconnects with reality — and rationality — that while Hammer gets her bandolier in a wad over protecting "law-abiding citizens," the NRA takes great pains to make the job of those charged with upholding law and order more difficult and dangerous." "Sheriff pulls trigger on half-baked NRA quiz".


"A federal judge who blasted state and federal regulators two years ago for failing to enforce anti-pollution laws in the Everglades as given his blessing to the agencies to move forward with an $880 million clean-up that would jump-start delayed projects and possibly resolve 20 years of costly lawsuits." "Federal judge OKs Everglades clean-up procedures".

"Absent: the Republican-led Florida Legislature"

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "There is a reason for all of the bluster in North Carolina over the ouster of Bill Johnson as CEO of newly combined Duke Energy and Progress Energy. The regulators are embarrassed for failing to do their job and properly examine the deal. In North Carolina, utility regulators did not even ask about the shuttered Crystal River nuclear power plant. In Florida, they asked but failed to move aggressively and had even less authority to review the merger. If regulators didn't see this coming, they have only themselves to blame."

For months, Progress Energy customers have been begging the Florida Public Service Commission to take a harder look at the botched repair job in Crystal River and whether it should just be shut down. (The PSC will hear a status report next month.) The PSC also has been unwilling to re-examine its approval of an advanced nuclear fee paid by 1.6 million Florida customers for a proposed Levy County nuclear plant that has more than quadrupled in cost since it was first announced six years ago.

Also absent: the Republican-led Florida Legislature, which has refused to even hold a committee hearing on the advanced nuclear fee, a law so badly written that there is actually a profit incentive for power companies to delay construction.
"Utility regulators asleep at the switch".

Judge holds off ruling on write-in issue

"A federal judge said he will decide Friday whether to force Miami-Dade County to open up the State Attorney’s Aug. 14 primary election to more than 700,000 Republican and independent voters." "Judge holds off on ruling in Miami-Dade State Attorney election write-in issue".