Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Today's Florida Political News and Punditry

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

"Fight over early voting is escalating"

"The fight over early voting is escalating in Florida as Gov. Rick Scott seeks agreement among counties for eight days and Democrats demand 12 days."

At issue is whether all 67 counties will operate under one early voting schedule, or five counties — including Monroe — will offer more days than all the others.

Days after a federal court ruled that eight days of early voting could depress African-American turnout, Scott’s chief elections advisor tried to get five counties to agree to eight days of early voting anyway — for 12 hours a day.

Court approval is critical. Because of past evidence of discrimination, election law changes need clearance from the federal government or federal courts before they taking effect in Monroe, Hillsborough, Collier, Hardee and Hendry counties.

Because the judges rejected the shorter early voting schedule in those counties last week, the counties must provide up to 14 days of early voting under the old law.

During a conference call with Secretary of State Ken Detzner, four of the five said yes to eight, 12-hour early voting days for the general election, in hopes that would satisfy the federal judges.
"Rick Scott, Democrats fight over Florida early voting". See also "Voting Battle Continues After Court Ruling" and "Court rejection of voting law changes leaves confusion".

Nancy Smith surprises no one with this: "Courts Should Toss Out All Early Voting".

"A city run by Democrats"

"When GOP delegates make their way downtown each day next week, they'll get a reminder that they're holding their quadrennial convention in a city run by Democrats. A billboard scheduled to go up today on Interstate 275 at Armenia Boulevard welcomes Republicans to a city 'Where the mayor and all city council members are Democrats.'" "Billboard reminds GOP Tampa leaders are Democrats".

Instead of conceding, he claimed election fraud

"In what is likely to be the closest outcome of any legislative race this season, Miami Gardens Rep. Barbara Watson edged out North Miami Beach Rep. John Patrick Julien in the contest for House District 107 by a narrow 13 votes, according to a manual recount by Miami Dade County officials."

That was Saturday.

On Monday, Julien did not concede the election. Instead, he claimed election fraud.

Julien went to the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office Monday with what he called evidence of a third boletero submitting hundreds of absentee ballots on election day, according to Miami Herald news partner CBS-4.

Absentee voting has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks, as police and prosecutors pursue a vote-fraud probe that has led to the arrest of two Hialeah boleteros, or ballot-brokers, accused of collecting absentee ballots from voters and in some cases fraudulently manipulating the votes. Absentee ballots accounted for more than one-third of all the ballots cast in Miami-Dade County.

Julien told CBS4 said the woman, whose business card boasts she is the “Queen of Absentee Ballots,” approached him wanting “thousands of dollars” to deliver the absentee vote. He told her he wasn’t interested.

Watson and Julien, both freshmen Democrats, were drawn into the same district during the painful redistricting process last session that pitted a handful of incumbents into the same districts because of new redistricting rules.

Watson’s victory came despite Julien’s nearly three-to-one fundraising advantage. Watson, a former vice mayor of Miami Gardens and a member of the city council, raised and spent about $30,000 while Julien, a former member of the North Miami Beach city council raised nearly $107,000 and spent $82,000 by the last report.
"John Patrick Julien claims electoral fraud in House District 107 race".

A victory for the Fraternal Order of Police

"A judge said Miami City Manager Johnny Martinez wasn’t empowered to declare financial urgency. The decision may now rest with the City Commission."

Her opinion delivered a victory to the Fraternal Order of Police, which sued the city three weeks ago for having improperly invoked the obscure state statute.
"Judge: Miami City Commission, not manager, empowered to declare ‘financial urgency’".

"Bad news for Florida's wetlands?"

"Florida environmental officials have approved a controversial 'land bank' business that would generate profits by replacing wetlands paved over by developers, even though one of their own experts warned earlier this year that the project's environmental value was inflated and could lead to a net loss of wetlands statewide. On Friday, the Florida Department of Environmental Project signed off on a request by backers of the Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank in Clay County to increase the property's potential value to nearly double what other state officials and a state judge previously had determined it to be worth." "Is decision bad news for Florida's wetlands?".

"Scott and Romney: United At Last"

"Scott is scheduled to speak between House Speaker John Boehner and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus at the beginning of the evening program that convenes at 7:45 p.m. capping a remarkable reversal in Scott's relationship with the national party and presumptive nominee Mitt Romney." "Gov. Scott gets premier speaking time at RNC".

State economists lower deficit projections

"The state employee health insurance trust fund is projected to have a deficit of $72.3 million for the current fiscal year." "State economists lower deficit projections for state worker health insurance fund".

TeaBaggers look to challenge voters

"A Tampa group that has been combing through voter rolls says thousands of felons are registered to vote in Florida."

Tampa Vote Fair says it found the names of 21,582 felons on voter rolls statewide and 1,375 in Hillsborough County. The group says its research shows some of the felons voted while behind bars.

Individuals convicted of a felony aren't allowed to vote in Florida unless they go through a process to restore their rights. The group says its research did not include any felons who were eligible to have their rights restored. ...

Voter registration lists and potential voter fraud have been in the spotlight in Florida this year with Gov. Rick Scott's efforts to remove ineligible voters from the rolls.

Tampa Vote Fair sent its data on felons to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office, which says it is forwarding the list to the Florida Division of Elections.

"We take any information we receive from citizens very seriously," said Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Earl Lennard.

Lennard said his office would need more information in order to act on the list provided by Tampa Vote Fair.

"What we need is additional information from the Department of Corrections that the state has access to that would further identify exactly whom you're talking about," Lennard said.

That information could include driver's license numbers and the last four digits of a Social Security number, information that could be used to further verify the identities of those on the list.

Lennard said his office could probably get the needed information and follow up on the issue in time for the general election in November.

Tampa Vote Fair started its work using software from True the Vote, a Houston group that grew out of a Texas tea party organization, to look for issues like duplicate registrations. But Kelley says the research on the Florida felons was done without that software.
"Tampa group says voter rolls rife with felons".

Righting a wrong inflicted by state lawmakers

The Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board: "A legislative commission's decision to restore funding initially cut from the Florida court clerks' budget rights a wrong inflicted by state lawmakers and enables the courts to operate in the public's best interests." "Victory for the courts".

Public officials "flouting the law"

Fred Grimm: "As of Monday, 2,313 public officials still haven’t bothered to file the financial disclosure declarations required by Florida law. The forms were due on July 1. But look at the bright side: More than 35,000 did file their disclosures — something of a compliance miracle, given that there’s no particular downside to flouting the law." "These politicians need to pay up".

A "liberal"

"Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson faces one of the toughest re-election fights of his career, with outside groups having already spent roughly $10 million attacking him as a liberal and for supporting the Affordable Care Act." "Nelson defends health care vote".

Let's hope they're not Villages idiots

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "At a campaign stop Saturday at the Villages, Ryan also was less than truthful in his broad criticisms. "

He claimed Obama "raids $716 billion from the Medicare program to pay for the Obamacare program.'' The Medicare savings are in the Affordable Care Act, but there is no raid. And that money is tied to cutting Medicare payments to insurers, promoting efficiencies and paying for quality care rather than the number of procedures. It has nothing to do with the other controversial parts of the law, including covering millions of Americans with subsidized private insurance or Medicaid.

Ryan also repeated the tired attacks on "unelected unaccountable bureaucrats in charge of Medicare who are required to cut Medicare in ways that will lead to denied care for current seniors.'' At least he didn't talk about death panels. But the truth is that the Independent Payment Advisory Board will be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The advisory board is charged with recommending to Congress ways to slow increases in health care spending — but not in ways that ration health care or cut benefits. Ryan knows as well as anyone that it is important to get the specifics right.
"Voters deserve better".

Southerland claims "nothing inappropriate occurred"

"Southerland’s name has been bandied about since Politico reported he was among a group of freshman congressmen who, along with family and staff members, took time out from a fact-finding mission in Israel a year ago to engage in a late night dip in the Sea of Galilee." "Steve Southerland's Name Floated into Kevin Yoder's Sea of Galilee Skinny-Dip".

Shooting range in wildlife area

"Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is planning to build a shooting range at a state wildlife area in Osceola County over the objections of Audubon Florida. The state's Acquisition and Restoration Council, which reviews land-use plans for state-owned conservation lands, voted 5-0 last week to approve the shooting park at the Triple N Ranch Wildlife Management Area near Holopaw." "Audubon opposes state plan to build shooting range in Osceola wildlife area".

"HCA is denying any wrongdoing"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "It will likely be months — if not years — before federal regulators determine if HCA hospitals in Florida endangered patients by performing a higher-than-average number of two popular, high-margin heart procedures. But already the case illustrates why federal Medicare costs continue to skyrocket. Medicare patients are insulated from the cost of such procedures, and doctors' decisions to perform them often go unchecked. The nation's health care costs won't stabilize until the incentives change."

HCA is denying any wrongdoing, though the New York Times reported that the chain's own 2004 audit — which was initially hid from regulators — found as many as 43 percent of 355 angioplasty cases were outside reasonable and expected medical practice. Some physicians had even doctored medical records to justify the unnecessary procedures. It wasn't until whistle-blowers went to federal officials that any real scrutiny began.
"System puts profit above patient health".