Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.
Florida Republicans "building a monumental cash advantage"
"Republicans and their interest-group allies are building a monumental cash advantage this election season despite Democratic hopes that redrawn districts could help restore at least some respectability in the GOP-dominated Florida Legislature."
Building toward a heated and high-priced Aug. 14 primary, GOP leaders are channeling millions of dollars from corporate givers such as Walt Disney Co. and its affiliated companies, Orlando-based Florida Association of Realtors and Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets to finance primary fights that could help settle internal leadership fights or subtly shift alliances in the Senate."GOP finds big spenders in legislative battles".
"Lawsuits over major legislation championed by Gov. Rick Scott more than a year ago are still working their way through the courts, and the legal bills for Florida's taxpayers continue to mount."
Challenges to laws sought by Scott to revamp the state's pension plans, require drug testing of welfare recipients and drastically alter the way teachers are paid were brought by the teachers' union, the American Civil Liberties Union or other opposing organizations in 2011. But because of the appeals process, none of the cases is resolved yet, and the legal meter for the state is still running."So far, the total legal tab on these cases combined is $888,317.51."
Florida is also entangled in the long process of getting a change to the state's election rules through the federal courts — all alterations to election law in Florida must be approved by theU.S. Department of Justiceor a federal court inWashington, D.C.
Under Scott, Florida also continued a lawsuit filed in 2010 over the Obama administration's health-care overhaul, which had resulted in a $69,827 price tag by the time theU.S. Supreme Court upheld the law last month.
Here's an update of some of the biggest lawsuits the state is currently defending against and the bill paid by taxpayers so far...."Tab for taxpayers in suits over Scott-backed laws hefty and growing".
"Early voting begins for five counties"
"Hillsborough, Collier, Hardee, Hendry and Monroe County allow voters to cast their ballot starting Monday. For the rest of Florida, early voting starts Aug. 4." "Early voting begins in 5 counties in Fla.".
RPOF "a bunch of crazies"
Aaron Deslatte: "It's obvious that former Gov. Charlie Crist is trying to launch a political second-coming as a Democratic candidate for governor in 2014, with his recent media foray decrying Florida's current Republican leadership for its voter purge."
But Crist has past-performance questions to answer if he wants his old job back: first and foremost, explaining away Jim Greer, who is awaiting trial on money laundering and fraud charges."Crist has Greer problem if he runs again for governor".
In his deposition made public this week, Greer makes a volatile statement that while he was Republican Party of Florida chairman, GOP consultants were holding meetings where they "talked about voter suppression and keeping blacks from voting."
The accusation is a swipe at the party he feels wronged him just weeks before the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
But Crist owns this four-year Greer spectacle. At some point, he will have to explain in more detail why he tapped the man from obscurity in Seminole County to run a multimillion-dollar political operation that – based on the voluminous court records – looked more like a theater production of "Animal House."
Legislative leaders "were using their credit cards like … drunken sailors, and they made it clear to me I was not to interfere with their spending," said Greer, who along with executive director Delmar Johnson also rang up more than $1.3 million on party credit cards to pay for dinners, hotels, trips to Las Vegas and a golf outing at Torrey Pines.
Greer said in the deposition that he ultimately bowed to pressure to resign coming from "the whack-a-dos, the crazies, the right wingers."
But at the height of the behind-the-scenes fight, House Speaker Dean Cannon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos pulled more than $1 million out of party coffers to keep other GOP leadership from spending it.
And had Broward National Committeewoman Sharon Day had been tapped to replace Greer instead of John Thrasher, they had plans to "remove all the computers from the [RPOF headquarters in Tallahassee]. Strip the servers. And the staff intended to resign because they would not work for her," according to Greer's deposition.
Greer said he had pleaded with Crist to raise more party money.
"He told me to [expletive] the party. They were a bunch of crazies. And they did nothing to win elections," Greer said.
Publicity stunt goes to court
"A group suing over the way three Supreme Court justices filed paperwork for their merit retention elections served subpoenas Friday on the clerk of the Supreme Court and one other employee, but no depositions are expected in the case until after a court hearing next month. The Southeastern Legal Foundation, which has sued seeking to remove Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince from the November ballot, said Friday it attempted to subpoena 14 court employees, but the group said a process server was unable to make contact with any other court employees." "Fight Over Whether Court Workers Will Be Deposed in Retention Case".
Another fine Jebacy
"Florida spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year offering remedial classes to college students to re-teach them reading, English or math skills they should have learned in high school." "College freshmen needing remedial work cost millions".
"Florida continues to plead with national party leaders"
"The Republican Party of Florida continues to plead with national party leaders to get the full slate of delegates seated at the national convention next month in Tampa."
But for now the state party is finalizing plans with its allowed 50 delegates and 48 alternates to be on the floor during the Aug. 27-30 convention."Time Running Out for RPOF to Set Delegate List".
The party hopes to have a final list of delegates in place next week, said RPOF Press Secretary Kristen McDonald.
“It’s been a long process, we just finalized it this week,” McDonald said. “It’s just getting certified.”
While holding out hopes that the national party will have a change of mind, the RPOF has held off on releasing the list that was shorted by Florida Republican Party Chair Lenny Curry, along with congressional district chairs. Officially the holdup has been the pending certification.
The party began working on the list in January, before the early primary was held that was deemed a violation of the national party rules regarding which states could hold the first primaries.
Florida was not supposed to hold what's known as a "winner-take-all" primary before April, with the top of the calendar primaries reserved for Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. ...
The move resulted in the number of Florida delegates being cut from 99 and alternates from 96.
"Political newcomer Tatiana Denson is challenging incumbent state Rep. Betty Reed for State House District 61, the boundaries of which largely are made up of the former District 59. Reed won office in 2006 and is seeking her fourth term." "Reed, Denson face off in House District 61".
Florida 4 sale
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board believes the "State should try again on prison privatization".
"Puppets have been a feature of the political landscape at conventions and large-scale demonstrations for decades. In recent years, political puppets have gotten people in trouble. At the Republican National Convention in 2000, police raided an old trolley barn in Philadelphia and arrested 75 puppet-makers." "Political puppets popular with protesters, not police". Related: "RNC might bring surge of graffiti artists".
Abuse scandal at Florida's "for-profit" Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation
Nancy Smith: "Who knows why it took an investigative reporter 1,200 miles away in Boston to discover and expose the drumbeat of abuse going on at the Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation. Bloomberg's David Armstrong discovered one malevolent little secret at FINR, then another and another. And by the time last week rolled around, he had taken the lid off a series of atrocities at one of the most prestigious brain treatment facilities in the country."
Armstrong's report, "Abuse of brain-injured Americans scandalizes U.S.," details the abuse, neglect and confinement of FINR patients -- some of whom were sexually abused, some beaten, some tortured and more, say 20 current and former patients and their family members, criminal charges, civil complaints and advocates for the disabled."Abuse and Neglect at Brain Injury Hospital Big Black Mark for Florida".
Armstrong doesn't skimp on powerful examples of the alleged abuse and neglect. He includes instances where patients have died, or have reportedly swallowed fishhooks and batteries to escape the institution, as well as testimonials from former patients, including videotaped evidence of apparent beatings by caretakers.
Take all this testimony and add it to the more than 2,000 pages of court and medical records, police reports, state investigations and autopsies and you've got to wonder how on God's green earth the 20-year-old, for-profit Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation is allowed to remain open for business.
"A tentative truce has been reached between city zoning officials and a group of protesters camping out on a commercial lot in downtown Tampa. The city is investigating whether the encampment behind the Army Navy Surplus Market, 1312 N. Tampa St., breaks the law and whether the store's owner can be fined for allowing protesters to stay in the lot." "RNC 'Romneyville' camp faces legal review".
Arresting the homeless
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Arresting homeless isn't answer".
"Absentee-ballot probe continues"
"An illiterate senior citizen said she trusted the woman at the center of an absentee-ballot investigation to fill out her ballot. Now it’s out of her hands." "As Hialeah absentee-ballot probe continues, voter regrets accepting help".