Friday, July 20, 2012

Today's Florida Political News and Punditry

If you have some time, you may want to devote some of it to Ronald Dworkin's "A Bigger Victory Than We Knew" in the New York Review of Books. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Embarrassing FlaGOP trial delayed until after general election

"A judge on Thursday delayed the criminal trial for former state GOP Chairman Jim Greer until mid-November, sparing Florida Republicans the embarrassment of intense scrutiny of the party’s inner-workings just weeks before Tampa hosts the Republican National Convention."

Orlando Circuit Judge Marc Lubet ordered a continuance after Greer’s lawyer, Damon Chase, asked for more time to review documents he is subpoenaing from the Republican Party of Florida.

Chase said he wants to be sure he can review any emails, notes, memos and reports that mention Victory Strategies LLC, the company Greer is accused of using to get almost $200,000 out of the party. The party’s attorney, Stephen Dobson, said emails for Delmar Johnson, the party’s former executive director, alone numbered around 70,000.
"Trial of former RPOF chair Jim Greer postponed until mid November". See also "Former Florida GOP chairman’s trial delayed until November".

Allegations against Ballard and Sergeant may be released

"In the middle of a pretrial hearing for ousted Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer, who's charged with fraud and grand theft, Circuit Judge Marc Lubet walked into a back room at the Orange County courthouse Thursday and read a four-page police report. When he came out, he rattled off the names of four prominent Florida Republicans who will be witnesses in Greer's trial."

Two unnamed potential witnesses had hired a lawyer, Richard Hornsby, who asked that the judge keep secret what is in those four pages. It is "defamatory", "salacious and basically harassing in nature," Hornsby said, and not relevant to the case.

Lubet pushed back by four months the start date of Greer's trial, which had been scheduled to start July 30, but made no immediate decision on whether to release the police report. He would decide, he said, early next week.

No one discussed in open court what the report contained, and Hornsby would not identify his clients.

But by reading aloud the names of those four powerful Republicans, the judge hinted broadly about whose reputations might take a beating: former state party executive director Delmar Johnson; GOP lobbyist Brian Ballard; former party finance chairman and major party donor Harry Sergeant III; and Dane Eagle, the longtime travel aide to former Gov. Charlie Crist.
"Jim Greer trial: Judge makes no decision on 'defamatory' secrets".

HD 45

"Democratic voters in the newly drawn House District 45 will decide between a former legislative aide to termed-out Orlando Sen. Gary Siplin and a former political consultant to the controversial lawmaker when they pick a nominee on Aug. 14."

Randolph Bracy III, 35, is a former basketball player at William and Mary College who has worked for an Orange County charter school and dabbled in politics as a consultant for Siplin. His father, Randolph Bracy Jr., is the well-known senior pastor at New Covenant Baptist Church of Orlando and former chair of the Orange chapter of the NAACP.

Shannon Currie, 42, has spent seven years as a legislative aide to Siplin, whose wife is also running this summer to replace him in the Florida Senate.

Both Democratic candidates say they want to follow in Siplin's footsteps – at least as far as finding ways to win allies in a political process in Tallahassee dominated by Republicans.

Siplin, though a Democrat, has been a reliable vote for the Senate's Republican leadership on controversial bills over the years – including fighting the Fair Districts reforms, voting for GOP spending bills, and was one of the few minority-party members to chair a committee.
"Two first-time Democratic candidates vie for new HD 45".

Tampa Teabaggery

"There's another big rally being discussed for the eve of the Republican National Convention, this one involving the tea party and potential appearances by former GOP presidential candidates Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain." "Tea Party looks at organizing pre-RNC rally".


"President Barack Obama returned Thursday to the Florida city he used in 2008 to draw a stark contrast to his past Republican rival, reviving the same themes of an embattled middle class against his new opponent Mitt Romney."

In 2008, after John McCain memorably told a Jacksonville audience that “the fundamentals of the economy are strong,” Obama drew 9,000 supporters to Veteran’s Memorial Arena on the eve of his election and promised change and hope.

This time, Obama told a sellout crowd estimated at 3,000 that the Prime Osborn Convention Center that Wall Street’s “culture of anything goes” and the “worst economic crisis since the Great Depression” are among the factors that continue to threaten the future of the middle class.

“We are here today because we recognize that this basic bargain, this essence of who we are — the simple American Dream — is at risk like never before,’’ he said. “What’s standing in our way is not technical solutions …What’s standing in our way is our politics.’’

But Obama steered clear of attacks on Romney’s business record and instead tailored his message toward seniors and the middle class on the first day of a two-day campaign swing in the nation's biggest battleground state. He stops in Fort Myers and Orlando on Friday.
"As thrill fades, President Barack Obama fires up supporters on Medicare, tax cuts". See also "" and "In Florida, Obama hits GOP strongholds".

HDs 81 and 82

See "HD 82: Carl Domino Faces Four GOP Foes as He Looks to Return to Tallahassee" and "HD 81: Steve Perman and Kevin Rader Battle in Democratic Primary".

Teachers to know their accusers

"The identity of students who submit complaints about teachers to public schools, including colleges and universities, are public records and must be disclosed to citizens, a Florida appellate court ruled Thursday." "Florida college must identify complaining student".

Heritage Foundation lectures Florida Health Insurance Industry Advisory Board

"Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty told members of the Florida Health Insurance Industry Advisory Board -- meeting for the first time since June 28, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to uphold the Affordable Care Act -- that the ruling created “ambiguity” regarding the state exchanges and Medicaid expansion."

Florida continues to actively resist the now-optional parts of the federal plan that include federal health-care exchanges. It is setting up a voluntary health-insurance marketplace for small businesses that goes into place next year,

Meanwhile, board members were told that little information has trickled out about what insurers -- if they participate in the subsidized exchanges -- are required to offer and how they would get paid.

“These plans are supposed to be ready on Oct. 1, 2013, and these exchanges are expected to open, while we’re now ticking down to 14, 15 months before that and those two big questions have not been answered,” said Edmund Haislmaier, the Heritage Foundation’s senior research fellow for health policy studies.

“It becomes questionable as to whether this thing will be ready, never mind the whole issue of the exchanges to screen the information through a federal data hub.”

Further stirring up the waters is the fall election.
"Heritage Foundation: Future of Obamacare in Florida Remains Murky".

Republican heavyweights make Senate ugly race uglier

"Two more Republican heavyweights climbed aboard Thursday to endorse Tom Lee in his primary bid against Rep. Rachel Burgin in a Senate race that has turned ugly and personal. Lee, a former Senate president from Brandon who is looking to return to the Legislature, received the endorsements of Sens. John Thrasher and Joe Negron in his quest to become the GOP nominee in District 24. The support comes in addition to previous endorsements from incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner and Sen. Jack Latvala." "John Thrasher, Joe Negron Join Support for Tom Lee".

Background: "Ex-Senate President Tom Lee calls 'garbage' a mass mailing attacking him that recently went out and says lobbyists are out to torpedo him in Senate District 24." "Burgin: 'I knew nothing of hit piece'". See also "Burgin says she's not behind Tom Lee attack ad".

Nancy Smith wrote this yesterday, "Does Attack on Tom Lee Have Senate Leadership Overtones?".

SDs 4 and 15

See "SD 15: Kelli Stargel Leading GOP Primary Field in Money Chase" and "SD 4: First Coast GOP Rivals Unveil Endorsements".

Carroll has turned her job into an episode of "Desperate Bureaucrats"

Daniel Ruth explains the goings on in the lieutenant governor's office:

"Salacious allegations of office randiness. Surreptitious bugging of employee conversations. Catty rumor-mongering, with a dollop of sneering gossip — always a nice touch. And let us not forget the mini-wastebasket conflagration. Employees being read their Miranda rights. Enter the lawyers."

[Lt. Gov. Jennifer] Carroll has managed to turn her make-work job into an episode of Desperate Bureaucrats with former aide Carletha Cole accused of handing over an illegally recorded conversation to a reporter for the Florida Times-Union.

The recording Cole allegedly passed along to the press involved a conversation between John Konkus, Carroll's chief of staff, and Cole, who worked as a senior program analyst and flack for the lieutenant governor, jobs which probably involved unlinking tangled paperclips.

On the recording, Konkus is heard bragging that Steve MacNamara, who was then Gov. Rick Scott's chief of staff, was afraid of Carroll.

How naive of Konkus. During his time in Tallahassee, MacNamara was one of the capital's most powerful and influential insiders. He used people like Carroll for dental floss.

Konkus then whines that Scott is "not leading," which is not exactly a big state secret in Tallahassee.

And for supposedly exposing a recording that was more innocuous than a chat you have with your cat, Cole is facing the possibility of five years in the slammer?

But Cole, who is also a minister, wasn't about to take her legal pickle lying down, especially if she could get Carroll to take her place, so to speak.

Cole denied being the secret taper, suggesting instead it was Carroll, who had found her inner Richard Nixon. Maybe she was bored.

And Cole was only getting warmed up, so to speak. She claimed she had walked in on Carroll and a female staffer, Beatriz Ramos, and found the two in an indelicate position.

Capping off the Animal House atmosphere in the capital, Cole's trash receptacle caught fire. Who knows how this got started, although Ramos suggested it might have happened when she tossed a lit cigar into the can. Busy people, these folks are.

Let us remind ourselves that all this saucy fiddle-faddle is coming out of the office of the lieutenant governor, a job with less impact on the affairs of the state than Scott's barber.

Carroll took time from her hectic schedule of rearranging the paperweights on her desk to deny anything untoward occurred between herself and Ramos, noting she was a wife and mother and besides, "black women who look like me don't engage in (lesbian relationships)."
Much more here: "Tallahassee's tempest in trash can".

Gambling in the Florida Constitution?

The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Going forward, gambling should be addressed through state law, not constitutional amendments. There's a clear reason why: Namely, state law is flexible and can be changed more easily when unintended consequences emerge. Not so for the state constitution. The Florida Constitution is best limited to issues regarding the structure of government and basic rights of Floridians." "Keep gambling proposal out of Fla. Constitution".

The Palm Beach Post editors: "Keep mega-casino bill off Florida’s 2014 ballot".

Rankings run wild

"The state Health Department, which came up with a ranking system of county health systems at Gov. Rick Scott’s request, says the document is still a work in progress." "County health departments get ranking by state".