Friday, August 24, 2012

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

Scott Takes Another Run at Early Voting

"Florida is asking a federal court to approve eight 12-hour days of early voting in five counties, saying it would not harm African-American voters."

Gov. Rick Scott’s administration filed papers with U.S. District Court in Washington, saying that 96 hours of early voting, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for eight days, including a Sunday, would comply with the Voting Rights Act. Hillsborough, Collier, Hardee and Hendry counties agreed in writing to hold eight 12-hour days of early voting in an effort to win statewide approval of the new schedule from a panel of three federal judges. Those four counties and Monroe, in the Florida Keys, cannot implement changes to voting without federal approval so that minority voters are protected from discrimination. The state acted despite Monroe County’s refusal to join the other four counties in the state’s request. Monroe wants 12 days of early voting for eight hours each day, saying that is better for Keys voters.
"The court itself suggested the 12-hour schedule as a way for Florida to secure preclearance in the five counties, a process that began last year."
Three federal judges last week denied the state’s petition for preclearance, saying the new law allowed a minimum of 48 hours of early voting that would discourage African Americans from voting. “Having invited Florida to bring such a plan to the court for review, the court should permit this amendment,” the state said in court papers. The state’s request applies only to the five preclearance counties. Elsewhere, county supervisors of election still have the discretion to schedule early voting, from a minimum of 48 hours, or six hours a day for eight days, to a maximum of 96 (12 hours a day for eight days).
"Over objections, Florida asks court to approve early voting plan". See also "Florida seeks pre-clearance for early voting".

The best they could do?

"For Florida political leaders, the Republican convention in Tampa is a rare chance to shine in front of a crowd of the most influential, wealthiest and most active party members in the nation, people who can make or break a political career. ... At least five have landed the most coveted favor, a convention speaking slot. They are: Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, former Gov. Jeb Bush, U.S. Senate candidate and Fort Myers U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott." "Florida's 'Fab 5' land coveted RNC speaking slots". See also "Connie Mack, Marco Rubio Get Closing-Night Stage Time at GOP Convention" and "Rick Scott, Will Weatherford, David Rivera Among Florida's GOP Convention Delegates".

"Facing FBI scrutiny"

"A failed Democratic congressional candidate whose campaign is under federal grand jury investigation abruptly amended his financial disclosures to show he loaned himself nearly $53,000 more than he originally reported." "Facing FBI scrutiny, former Democratic candidate files amended campaign finance report".

Tampa, "where tea party politics will lead cities"

"'The GOP convention's host city is a disaster, and a perfect reflection of where tea party politics will lead cities.'" "Scalding Tampa".

Republican leaders quietly ask judge to shield lawmakers

"Republican leaders have quietly asked a Leon County judge to shield lawmakers and their aides from having to testify during a trial to determine whether the state’s congressional redistricting plan runs afoul of new standards for drawing the state’s political maps." "Florida lawmakers seek to block redistricting testimony".

Stearns has $2 million, and no campaign to spend it on

"Twelve-term U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns lost his Republican primary to a little known tea party opponent last week with as much as $2 million still sitting in his campaign account. Now he has no campaign to spend it on." "Cash, but no campaign".

West, Murphy to debate

"U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Palm Beach Gardens, and Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy have set aside Oct. 19 for a one-hour debate on WPTV Channel 5 if their campaigns can agree on the format for the showdown." "Tentative agreement for congressional debate between Murphy, West".

"Law tying teacher salaries to test scores still intact"

"Palm Beach County School District and teachers union officials Thursday applauded a judge’s decision striking down the state’s rules putting a merit pay system in place, but their enthusiasm was tempered by the fact the law tying their salaries to evaluations and test scores was still intact."

Late Wednesday, Administrative Law Judge John Van Laningham declared the rule the state Department of Education created to put merit pay in place to be invalid. State officials “failed to materially follow the applicable rule making process,” Van Laningham wrote. But his ruling does not strike down the merit pay system, which was created in a bill passed by the legislature last year. It only strikes down the rule governing the way the law would be carried out. State officials did not follow proper procedures in creating it, Van Laningham said.
"Teachers union, district officials see judge’s ruling as chance to get new merit pay system ‘right’". See also "Judge Rejects Teacher Evaluation Rule".

Protests at Republican convention

"Tampa strives for balance on protests at Republican convention".

GOP leaders have been in constant contact with hurricane expert, Pat Robertson

Frank Cerabino: "Party leaders have been in constant contact with the nation’s foremost faith-based hurricane expert, the Rev. Pat Robertson, who has assured us that God has merely directed the path of the storm toward Key West, as a way to endorse the party’s efforts to thwart the homosexual agenda. Once God issues his judgment on the Sunday afternoon tea dances in Key West, the storm is predicted to continue on a northerly path that may bring it perilously close to the convention site, which is in a low-lying coastal area." "A few contingency plans for the GOP convention prepping for Hurricane Isaac".

Blame lays squarely on the shoulders of the Republican-led Legislature

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "The Pinellas County Commission, for one, knew many taxpayers wouldn't be happy when they opened their TRIM — truth in millage — notices this week and saw close to a 5 percent increase in the tax rate it charges for general government services."

So the Republican-dominated board took the unusual step of including a note to taxpayers passing the buck, and rightly so. The blame for this increase in millage lays squarely on the shoulders of the Republican-led Legislature, which instead of spending the time and resources to correct a faulty Medicaid billing system, just decided to require immediate and extraordinary payments from counties so the state would not have to make more cuts or raise taxes.
"Whom to blame for higher taxes".

Babies on parade

"The Florida Democratic Party displayed its new line of state House candidates for Tallahassee lobbyists this week in a sedate little reception in the Governors Club, the private redoubt of corporate deal-making a block from the state Capitol." "Democratic House candidates make their Tallahassee debut".