Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Today's Florida Political News and Punditry

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

Rumor has it that "women were involved and paid" at "for men only" Bahamas trip

"There is a bit of bad news for some of the witnesses slated to testify at the trial of former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer."

A four-page report that apparently includes some embarrassing accusations against witnesses is a public record, says Orlando Circuit Judge Marc L. Lubet in an order released Monday.

The judge also refused to limit the records that Greer can subpoena from the state party saying the records are likely to be relevant and favorable to his defense.
"Orlando attorney Richard E. Hornsby asked the court to seal the record to avoid violating the privacy of 'interested persons' who were not charged. He would not identify the client who hired him."
During a hearing earlier this month the judge read a list of potential witnesses who might be harmed by the report, including Brian Ballard, a lobbyist and GOP fundraiser; former GOP executive director Delmar Johnson; former finance chairman Harry Sargeant; and Dane Eagle, a House candidate and former aide to Gov. Charlie Crist. ...

Law enforcement reports released so far include comments from two witnesses who described gatherings Greer had "for men only.'' One witness said one of the gatherings took place in the Bahamas and she heard "women were involved and paid.''

"I don't know anything,'' Eagle said. As a travel aide to Crist, Eagle said he did accompany Greer, the governor and about 100 GOP donors on a fundraising trip to the Bahamas but did not see anything out of the way.

"I was on those trips, but I kept to myself unless I was needed,'' Eagle added.

Ballard said he has not seen the document in question and does not know what is in it. He says he did not hire a lawyer to block its release. He was on the trip to the Bahamas.
"Judge in Jim Greer case declares potentially embarrassing witness statements public record".

Early Voting Under Way

"Early Voting Under Way in Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe". See also "Early voting begins in five Florida counties".

Scott's "transparency" limited to Teabagger worshipers

"Gov. Rick Scott said he was championing transparency in May when he gave the public access to his emails by posting them online for anyone to see."

But what he failed to say at his May 3 news conference launching Project Sunburst was that the emails he made public were not the emails of his official state account. The emails the public read online were from a different account used almost exclusively by conservative supporters.

On Monday, after the Herald/Times questioned what appeared to be an unrealistically high percentage of favorable emails on the public database, the Scott administration issued a statement acknowledging the two separate e-mail accounts. It also announced that it would phase out RLS@eog.myflorida.com, which Scott solely used to respond to email. That email address — which was not on any official state website — appears on many Tea Party websites across the state, under the heading “Governor Rick Scott’s email.”
"Scott omits email account from state website".

HD 100

"HD 100: Joe Gibbons Has Financial Edge But Faces Democratic Primary Threat".

Sitting lawmakers derive income from firms that lobby the Legislature

"At least 11 sitting lawmakers derive some of their income from work with firms that lobby the Legislature, according to a new report by the watchdog group Integrity Florida. But the legislators involved say they've done nothing wrong and that their firms take pains to separate them from the daily operations of lobbying practices." "Several Lawmakers Work for Lobbying Firms, Group Says".

Kathy Castor a Heavy Favorite

"CD 14: Kathy Castor a Heavy Favorite to Win Fourth Term in Congress".

"He swallowed fishhooks to get out"

The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Recent newspaper investigations have found rampant abuse and neglect in Florida's assisted-living facilities and now at a rehabilitation center for brain-injured patients in Hardee County."

What these stories have in common is an indictment of Florida's regulators. Whether it is due to a lack of resources, regulatory tools or will, the state is failing to protect some of its most vulnerable residents. The result is that the state's frail, elderly and injured are left to try to protect themselves.

The latest scandal involves the Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation, a 196-bed for-profit facility that is one of the largest brain-injury centers in the country. This is where patients who often can't make decisions for themselves are sent to recover from traumatic brain injuries. But an investigation by Bloomberg News found that abuse is common at FINR. One patient was so desperate to escape his beatings that he swallowed fishhooks to get transferred out.
"Florida's vulnerable not protected".

SD 4

"The race between Aaron Bean and Mike Weinstein this year could determine who will be Senate President in 2016, Sen. Joe Negron or Sen. Jack Latvala. Major state Republican Party support is lining up according to where their loyalties lie." "Primary Profile: District 4 Senate race has long-term implications".

The Week Ahead

"The Week Ahead for July 30 to Aug. 3".

Scott shills for NRA

"Gov. Rick Scott, as expected, is appealing a judge’s ruling that blocked the implementation of a Florida law barring doctors from asking patients about guns."

Scott’s appeal has “zero chance of success,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida. The ACLU filed an amicus brief in the lawsuit on behalf of a group of health-care and child welfare organizations, including the Palm Beach County Medical Society.

“This is what happens when you have an ideologue as governor,” Simon said. “It is about as clear a First Amendment violation as could be. Doctors could ask some questions to protect the health of their patients but not other questions.”
"Florida to appeal ruling blocking law banning doctors from asking about guns". See also "State appeals ruling on doctors' inquiries about guns".

West acts as if the Aug. 14 primary doesn't exist

"Republican primaries typically feature candidates flashing their conservative credentials and trying to outdo each other in their zeal to repeal the federal health care law, oppose tax increases and criticize President Obama."

Then there’s the Aug. 14 GOP primary for newly drawn Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional District 18.

Challenger Robert Crowder, the longtime sheriff of Martin County, says the health care law requires “tuning” rather than repeal and he’s OK with its individual mandate. He also says he’s open to future tax hikes on the wealthy, grades Obama a “C-plus or a B” for his first term and doesn’t rule out voting for the Democratic president in November.

Incumbent Rep. Allen West, R-Palm Beach Gardens, acts as if Crowder and the Aug. 14 primary don’t exist.

“This isn’t really a race,” says West campaign manager Tim Edson. “So we’re not real inclined to give Crowder any attention from the Congressman.”

West’s campaign and his congressional office turned down requests for an interview with West about the primary. The campaign later sent a statement from West about the outreach efforts he’s made and the support he’s received in District 18.

West opted to run in District 18 after redistricting gave his Palm Beach-Broward District 22 a Democratic tilt. About 23 percent of West’s District 22 constituents are in the new District 18.

A national tea party favorite known for his fiery rhetoric, West has raised more than $10 million for what is expected to be a bruising November reelection campaign against Democrat Patrick Murphy. An array of liberal super PACs have targeted West for defeat.
"Crowder, West far apart on issues in U.S. House GOP primary".

FCAT follies

The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Since former Gov. Jeb Bush started misusing FCAT scores to assign school grades in 1999, reading scores generally have risen in elementary schools."

But they’ve barely budged for high schools, where about half of 10th-graders still flunk the reading portion.

Now comes the news that even for students who have graduated from high school — which means that they have fulfilled the reading and math requirements — nearly 38 percent heading to public higher education in Florida still need help before they can move up to college classes. All the do-or-die emphasis on the FCAT, in other words, hasn’t sufficiently paid off where it counts most.

Remediation is expensive, both for the students who have to pay the extra tuition — and take longer to get their college degrees — and for the state’s higher education system. One recent study found that remediation cost $127 million in 2007-2008. Also, those who need remediation are less likely to get a degree.

Florida gradually is replacing the FCAT with end-of-course tests. In another good move, the state is helping high school students get remediation before they graduate. But the state still is hung up on giving out school grades. And it foolishly will begin evaluating teachers based on the old testing regime even as it gropes its way toward a new system.

Florida’s accountability system still needs remediation.
"Editorial: Do-overs reinforce need to do over FCAT-based education system".

Buchanan blows off depo

"U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan did not appear for a scheduled court deposition in Orlando on Monday, prompting an angry response from the opposing attorney who said the three-term congressman should be held in contempt of court." "Buchanan a no-show for deposition".

The usual "chatter that Democrats have a Jewish voter problem"

Adam C. Smith: "As sure as the TV ads start blitzing the I-4 corridor every presidential election, so does the chatter that Democrats have a Jewish voter problem that could deliver Florida to the GOP."

"The Jewish vote definitely is moving toward Mitt Romney," said St. Petersburg developer Mel Sembler, a top Republican fundraiser whom Romney invited to join him in Israel on Sunday. "I've had so many people tell me that they've always voted Democrat and they just can't bring themselves to vote for (Barack) Obama."

These predictions are nothing new. Republicans aggressively targeted Jewish voters in 2004, when exit polls found John Kerry won 75 percent of that vote. Same in 2008, when Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote. A Republican nominee hasn't cracked 25 percent in Florida since 1988.
"As Mitt Romney pursues must-win Florida, Jewish vote is key target".

"The intersect between the public and private lives of lawmakers"

"Florida state senators have grown their wealth by an average of $800,000 since taking office, according to a study by the Tallahassee group Integrity Florida. But the opposite is true for members of the Florida House."

The reports, which were designed to help the public identify conflicts of interest, did not suggest blatant violations or unfair advantages to lawmakers because of their elected office. But the fact that many politicians out-perform average Floridians has in the past raised questions about the intersect between the public and private lives of lawmakers.
"Some Florida lawmakers see wealth rise while in office".

SD 27

"SD 27: Two Dem State Reps Battle for Open Florida Seat in Palm Beach County".

"Corruption risk report"

"Elected officials should have to make much more detailed public disclosure of outside income sources and potential voting conflicts, an independent watchdog organization said in a 'corruption risk report' issued at a news conference on Monday." "Integrity Florida urges state to update 'sunshine laws'".

Bondi is "everywhere, except Tallahassee"

"Attorney General Pam Bondi seems to be everywhere these days — stumping for Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, schmoozing with Rudy Giuliani in Tampa or talking about health care on Fox News. Everywhere, except Tallahassee." "Pam Bondi splits her schedule between Tampa, Tallahassee".

"She’s in the fight for her political life"

"For eight years Barbara Jordan has had a comfortable perch on the Miami-Dade County Commission, easily fending off challengers for the District 1 seat that cuts through the northern part of the county and spreads all the way to the Broward County line. Now, she’s in the fight for her political life, opposed by a well-heeled political veteran who is popular in her community and is credited with helping create the county’s third-largest city." "Rivals wage bitter dispute for Miami-Dade commission seat".