Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Today's Florida Political News and Punditry

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

Scott "caught promising openness and delivering propaganda"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "In Tallahassee's politicized culture of cynicism, even an initiative touted by Gov. Rick Scott as an effort to provide unprecedented transparency has turned out to be just another betrayal of the public trust."

Scott's so-called Project Sunburst, which falsely promised to allow the public online access to his administration's emails, is really nothing more than a sanitized forum for the governor's conservative political base.
"It should be renamed Project Sundown."
Scott's staff has promised to begin to post the governor's official email. But that promise comes only after they got caught promising openness and delivering propaganda.
"Promising openness, delivering propaganda".

HD 59

"GOP field is crowded for state House District 59".

HD 18

"National Democrats have high hopes for fundraising phenom Patrick Murphy as a challenger to Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Palm Beach Gardens. But Murphy first faces an Aug. 14 Democratic primary against a pair of Treasure Coast opponents who criticize his big-money backing and lack of roots in the district." "Big divider in U.S. House District 18 Democratic race is money, not issues".

"Absentee ballot-fraud probe expands"

"Investigators have found as many as 31 absentee ballots that were collected by a suspected ballot broker, and are questioning the voters who cast them to determine if the marked choices correspond to their intentions." "Miami-Dade absentee ballot-fraud probe expands".

Voter purge litigation

"The U.S. government wants to block Florida from resuming its purge of suspected noncitizens from the voter rolls, saying it would violate federal law."

The Justice Department filed papers in U.S. District Court in Tampa accusing the state of ignoring a requirement that it first obtain approval for such action because five Florida counties are subject to federal pre-clearance of changes in voting procedures: Hillsborough, Collier, Hardee, Hendry and Monroe.

The removal of noncitizens in a presidential election year has mushroomed into a major controversy, with Democrats and left-leaning voter advocacy groups accusing Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican Party of using the purge to suppress voter turnout in a state widely seen as a must-win for both presidential candidates.

At issue is whether Florida's on-again, off-again purge of noncitizens is subject to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

The feds say it is. The state says it isn't.

The federal claim was filed Friday in a case brought by the ACLU of Florida and Lawyers Committee for Justice Under Law, seeking to halt more purging. The case is before U.S. District Judge James Whittemore.
"U.S. Justice Department says Florida's voter purge violates federal law".

Meanwhile, "Florida is working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on a voter purge system that will be what the state calls 'a model for the country' even as another of President Obama’s agencies told a three-judge panel the proposed purge is unlawful without federal or court approval."
The Department of Justice last week weighed in on lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Florida and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in federal court in Tampa on behalf of two Hispanic voters and Mi Familia Vota Education Fund.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner had asked the Tampa-based judges to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing state and local elections officials had already halted the flawed purge process aimed at removing noncitizens from the voting rolls.

But on Friday, the plaintiffs amended their complaint, saying that Detzner continued to move forward with the purge plan based on an agreement with Homeland Security that will grant Florida access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or “SAVE,” database.

On Monday, the judges rejected Detzner’s request to dismiss the case as moot, meaning the state will have to file another request for dismissal.
"One U.S. agency working with Florida on voter purge as another fights it".

"Momentum in South Florida real estate"

"The nation’s leading home price index showed continued momentum in South Florida real estate in May, marking a six-month run of increases buoyed by low interest rates and shrinking inventory." "South Florida home prices on six-month run".

Paid vacations

"According to an analysis of [Insurance Commissioner Kevin] McCarty’s travel records from January 2011 through July 2012 conducted by The Florida Current, the head of the Office of Insurance Regulation has been out of the state for 142 days – almost five months."

Although Florida taxpayers aren't paying for the trips, McCarty’s extensive travel is upsetting both sides of Florida’s insurance divide. Taxpayers do, however, pay his salary during his work for the NAIC. His annual salary is $133,158.
"Insurance Commissioner McCarty travels often for nonstate business".

Long shots

"In the U.S. Senate race, GOP candidate Connie Mack IV is already focusing on the general election and incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson. But Mack's chief Republican rival, former congressman Dave Weldon, insists the GOP primary isn't quite settled." "Long shot strives to make a race".

And then there's Mike: "GOP Senate Hopeful Mike McCalister Plays Up Experience in His Bid to Challenge Bill Nelson".

Who will "Jeb!" next select as Education Commissioner?

"Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson resigned late Tuesday amid a months-long controversy over the state's testing regimen and errors on school grades that forced the department to change the marks for dozens of schools."

Scott, who backed Robinson after reportedly pushing out former Education Commissioner Eric Smith, issued a brief statement praising Robinson.

"I appreciate Gerard’s service to the state of Florida and his commitment to ensuring Florida’s students receive a first class education," the governor said. "He has been a tireless advocate for creating quality learning opportunities for all of Florida’s students and he will certainly be missed."

But Robinson's tenure had been dogged in recent months by the public-relations pounding the department took after FCAT scores collapsed, followed a few months later by the school grades mix-up. ...

Shanahan, who said the board would consult with Scott while looking for a new commissioner, also praised Robinson in a statement released by the Department of Education.
"Embattled education commissioner Gerard Robinson resigns". See also "Gerard Robinson Out After One Year as Head of Florida Education", "Florida education commissioner resigns after 1 year on job" and "Education Commissioner Robinson resigns".

HD 57

"HD 57: Jake Raburn Has the Edge for Open Florida House Seat".

"Another unwelcome headline for Carroll"

"The New Port Richey pharmacist who was federally indicted in connection with a large oxycontin-distribution ring is the brother-in-law of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll."

Authorities say Edward Beckles, the 59-year-old owner and operator of Ed's Family Friendly Pharmacy, was providing prescription pain medication to two drug rings that operated between Florida and Kentucky. Beckles also dispensed pills to at least one woman in return for sex, authorities said.

Beckles is married to Carroll's sister, and upon his arrest he let federal Drug Enforcement Agency agents know of his powerful sister-in-law who knew nothing of the case or his activities.

"Lt. Gov. Carroll is not familiar with Mr. Beckles' arrest or his business practices and she has never visited his pharmacy," the Governor's Office said in a written statement. "She is surprised and saddened that this has happened to her sister's family."

Beckles' arrest is another recent unwelcome headline for Carroll.

A former aide accused Carroll, who is married, of being involved in a lesbian relationship with another aide, a claim Carroll vehemently denied to the point of making comments that suggested attractive black women don't engage in homosexual relationships.
"Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll's brother-in-law indicted after Pasco drug bust".

"Florida ranks an unimpressive 26th out of 50"

"When it comes to disclosing legislators’ financial information, Florida ranks an unimpressive 26th out of 50, according to the national Center for Public Integrity. Now a state watchdog group, Integrity Florida, is raising awareness and confronting the issue." "State Watchdog Issues Public Financial Disclosure Risk Report".

"Adams, Mica assail each other"

"Adams, a freshman lawmaker from Orlando, criticized Mica, a 10-term veteran, for taking at least 31 trips to more than 50 countries since 1995, all at taxpayer expense. Mica, of Winter Park, responded by attacking a $20,000 trip that Adams took with her husband to Israel that was paid for by the American Israeli lobby." "Adams, Mica assail each other for foreign trips they've taken".

HD 89

"The Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee on Tuesday unanimously picked onetime Florida House speaker Tom Gustafson to run against state Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, for a coastal House seat. Gustafson was approved on a 139-0 vote during a special meeting west of Delray Beach. He will replace Pamela Goodman, who withdrew from the race last week because of her husband’s health problems." "Democrats tap Gustafson to run against Hager for coastal state House seat".

"Loaded questions for candidates"

Joe Henderson: "Special interests lay loaded questions for candidates".

"Florida consumers upbeat"

"Consumers in the state and in the nation are feeling more confident about the economy, according to separate surveys released Tuesday." "U.S., Fla. consumers upbeat, surveys show".

SD 12

"Primary Profile: Wife takes up husband's challenge in Senate District 12 race".

"Cheap shot or chip shot?"

"The Republican state Senate primary battle in the greater Jacksonville area between former Rep. Aaron Bean and Rep. Mike Weinstein is one of the most clos watched in the state."

A new mailer from Weinstein lashes out at Bean on a host of issues, from government spending to earmarks to taxes and states under the category of experience that while Weinstein has held a variety of public-sector jobs in Jacksonville, Bean is a "putt putt golf operator."
"North Florida primary heats up".

PPP Poll: Dead Heat

"A survey of likely Florida voters released on Tuesday from Public Policy Polling (PPP), a firm with connections to prominent Democrats, shows a tight battle to control the Sunshine State with President Barack Obama barely ahead of former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, the presumptive Republican candidate -- but the poll also finds that Romney could help win the biggest swing state in the nation with the right vice presidential candidate."

The poll shows Obama taking 48 percent while Romney is right on his tail with 47 percent with 5 percent remaining undecided.

“Florida looks like it will once again be among the closest states in the country with neither candidate having a clear advantage there,” said Dean Debnam, the president of PPP.

The poll finds both candidates are upside down in the Sunshine State. Half of those surveyed -- 50 percent -- disapprove of Obama while 47 percent approve of him. Romney has strikingly similar numbers, with 49 percent seeing him as unfavorable while 46 percent view him in a favorable light.

But Romney’s fortunes in the poll change when U.S. Sen. Macro Rubio, R-Fla., is added to the ticket. While national pundits discount Rubio’s chances of winding up as Romney’s running mate, he helps the former Massachusetts governor in the poll. The Romney-Rubio ticket takes 49 percent while Obama-Vice President Joe Biden follow with 47 percent.

The poll shows that former U.S. Secretary of State Condi Rice -- another dark horse to end up on the ticket -- also helps Romney in Florida. The Romney-Rice pairing take 46 percent while Obama-Biden follow with 45 percent. ...

The poll of 871 likely Florida voters was taken from July 26-29 and had a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percent.
"Mitt Romney Helped in Florida Poll by Adding Marco Rubio or Condi Rice as VP".

Never mind

"Three months have passed since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requested more information about Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr.'s employment prior to joining the department in 2011, but there has been no response from DEP." "Another three months passes without action in possible conflict-of-interest case for DEP's Vinyard".

Sansom wants another check

"Former House Speaker Ray Sansom is suing the state, saying he should be reimbursed for the costs of defending himself against corruption charges that were eventually dropped. ... Sansom, Odom and former Northwest Florida State College president Bob Richburg agreed to pay restitution for the $310,000 spent on the facility before the college returned the $6 million appropriated for the project." "Former Florida Speaker Ray Sansom sues state for legal costs".

What's wrong with Hillsborough?

The Tampa Bay Times editors "The made-up controversy over guest speakers in the public schools shows how far some Hillsborough County tea party activists will go to throw the entire school system in reverse. This campaign is aimed not solely at censoring the voices of Muslims in this community. It stands as a warning shot to the board that a vocal minority not entirely sold on public education in the first place wants to micromanage the eighth-largest school district in the country." "A pointless pledge on guest speakers".