Thursday, September 20, 2012

After reading the hard copy of your hometown newspaper, please consider following us on Twitter. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Stamping out absentee ballot fraud

The Miami Herald editors: "Hialeah, Miami Lakes and now Miami-Dade County have all moved to stamp out absentee ballot fraud with, well, a stamp."

Offering taxpayer-funded postage for absentee ballots certainly removes the excuse for using so-called boleteros, ballot brokers, now paid by various candidates, to be snooping around nursing homes and county-run comedores to “help” the elderly or infirm fill out their ballots and, often, to take the ballots with them to the post office.
"The problem isn’t so much carrying a ballot to the mailbox. The problem is the practice of boleteros filling out ballots for others when voting is a sacred right of citizenship that’s based on personal responsibility — not a group project. This isn’t about a family member helping another go over the ballot. It’s about having paid ballot brokers manipulate the most important system in a democracy: elections."
In Miami-Dade it’s already illegal for anyone to carry more than two ballots to the post office, thanks to a law proposed by Commissioner Rebeca Sosa last year. Now, even with prepaid stamps for ballots, Miami-Dade’s cities still have to put their money where their integrity should be and fund their portion for absentee voters within city limits. But as Commissioner Barbara Jordan pointed out at Tuesday’s meeting, paying the postage is but “a Band-Aid.”

The greater issue is maintaining the integrity of “one person, one vote.” Absentee ballots began as a way to help voters who were going to be out of town on Election Day or were too old or ill to be standing in long lines to vote. They should not be disenfranchised.

But the reality is absentee ballots today are more a convenience than a rare exception. About one-third of voters now use absentee ballots, and the GOP-led Legislature has moved over the past 10 years to make it easier to vote absentee because Republican-leaning voters are more likely to use them. Tallahassee went so far as to remove the requirement of having a second person sign the outside envelope of an absentee ballot to vouch that the voter alone filled it out. Wrong call.

"Fighting ballot fraud".

Fading in Florida, Romney fends off hidden-video questions

"Fending off questions about his hidden-video remarks, Mitt Romney sat with Univision’s top hosts at the University of Miami for an interview focused on the nation’s diverse Hispanic community."

A FOX poll of likely Florida voters released just before the event showed Obama leading Romney 58-37 percent among Hispanics. Overall, Obama has an inside-the-error-margin lead of 49-44 over Romney, who plans to use his two-day Florida swing to raise an estimated $7 million.
"Mitt Romney in Miami: ’My campaign is about the 100 percent’".

"Politically, though, it is a memo aimed at one reader: Gov. Rick Scott"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft’s upbeat 'state of the university address' on Wednesday served as a powerful reminder to Tampa Bay of the impact a major university makes on an urban community. Politically, though, it is a memo aimed at one reader: Gov. Rick Scott, who like other conservative governors around the nation cares more about how universities create jobs and stimulate the economy than about the value of a broad liberal arts education." "USF sends a message to capital".

League of Women Voters growing

Beth Kassab: "Since Barack Obama's election four years ago, registration in the Republican and Democratic parties have each declined by 1 percent in Orange County. Meanwhile, people registered without a party affiliation edged up 1 percent. Make that a 3 percent jump when you count people registered with the Independent and Independence parties, a common mistake among voters looking to dump the traditional parties."

And, in greater and greater numbers, people in Orange County are finding refuge in the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan group that focuses on voter education and access.

Orange's league is growing at a faster clip than any chapter in Florida. Membership increased about 25 percent during the last year to 426 people (men, too).

"League grows as parties lose ground".

"Arguably the most closely watched state House campaign in Florida"

"For the past four years, there has been no greater champion of conservative causes in the Florida Legislature than state Rep. Scott Plakon."

The Longwood Republican has fought to place new limits on abortion, decertify labor unions, repeal cap-and-trade laws and allow tax money to go to religious institutions. He has tried to limit food stamps, ban Internet café gambling locations, encourage pre-marital counseling and block the federal government's healthcare overhaul.

Along the way, Plakon has compiled 100-percent voting records with such organizations as the Christian Coalition of Florida, the American Conservative Union and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Americans for Prosperity, the tea-party backed group paying for TV ads to defeat President Barack Obama, chose Plakon as its Florida "legislator of the year."

But the same record that has made him so popular with conservatives may now be Plakon's greatest liability. Redrawn political boundaries forced Plakon out of a safely Republican seat and into a much more moderate district — and Florida Democrats have made defeating him one of their top goals this fall.

The race for House District 30, which pits Plakon against Maitland public-school teacher and Democratic family scion Karen Castor Dentel, is arguably the most closely watched state House campaign in Florida this year.

"Plakon's conservative past may not help in new district".

Sales of single family homes rise

"Housing figures released Wednesday were good news for Florida, with prices and sales both increasing in August from a year earlier, according to statistics released by Florida Realtors. Sales of single family homes in Florida rose 10.8 percent in August from a year earlier, while pending sales -- those signed but not closed upon -- jumped 40.2 percent from August 2011. Pending sales tend to close within 90 days." "Home Sales in Florida Continue Run in August".

Scott blames FDLE

After all, she was a Democrat: "Melissa Sellers, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Scott, blamed the FDLE for rejecting Dullivan and denied that the governor's office was screening parents for their political affiliation." "Security check kept parent out".

Big of him

"GOP hopeful Mitt Romney used his opportunity to address Latino voters nationwide tonight to tell them that if elected in November he will not be president only for the more affluent half of the country, but for everyone." "In Miami, Romney fights back, says he supports the 100 percent". See also "In South Florida, Romney says he'll support nation's '100 percent'".

Science get hijacked by GOPer politics

Frank Cerabino: "The ad against Murphy, which is being paid for by a Super PAC supporting his opponent, U.S. Rep. Allen West, is similar to ant-research attack ads that have been paid for by other Super PACs opposed to Democratic congressional candidates in Oregon, Texas, California and Virginia. Fisher says it’s “frustrating” to have science get hijacked by politics." "Ant researcher frustrated that work is fodder for pesky political attack ads".


"American Airlines warns workers of potential layoffs at Miami International Airport". Meanwhile, realizing these folks must be part of the 47%, "Scott said he has asked state and local economic-development and employment agencies to help the workers find new jobs." "Gov. Scott seeks help for airline, wind-energy workers losing their jobs".

Household income falls

"14% dive for household income in South Florida".

Alvin Brown one year later

"As Democrat Alvin Brown kicks off his second year as mayor of the Sunshine State’s largest city, he’s receiving criticism and accolades from some very unlikely sources."

A series of articles in recent months has drawn attention to criticisms Brown, the first Democratic mayor of Jacksonville in 20 years and the first African-American to occupy the office, has received from his party’s committed progressive wing. Particularly in question is his failure to support an expansion of Jacksonville's human rights ordinance to include homosexuals, and his apparent reluctance to endorse President Obama’s re-election bid. “Clearly, the progressives are disappointed in him as a mayor,” says Dr. Matthew T. Corrigan, chair of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of North Florida and an expert on state politics. In an interview with Sunshine State News, Corrigan said, “He made a promise before he was elected, that he would work along party lines and not as a partisan Democrat. He also promised not to raise taxes. He had to run, and now has to govern, as a conservative Democrat. Progressives are wary of that.”
"Republicans Warm Up, Leftists Cool, to Democratic Mayor Alvin Brown of Jacksonville".

Still slush

Fred Grimm: "Who would have thought that Mary McCarty, the onetime slush-fund queen of Palm Beach County, was such an inspirational figure down in Broward? The Broward County Commission, with only a single dissenting vote (Lois Wexler), decided last week to channel some $600,000 in unspent office funds into their own sweet individual discretionary funds to spread around their districts. That won’t quite amount to the unfettered buckets of slush that empowered (and enriched) Mary — and helped put her in prison — but it’s a start." "By any other name, it’s still slush in Broward".

Posey wakes up

"Bill Posey Ready to Launch a Joint NASA Administration Overhaul Bill".

Right wing GOTV scams

"It might sound like an initiative straight from the Department of Government Redundancy: a constitutional change that Florida lawmakers labored for two years to place on this fall's statewide ballot even though it will have little real-world impact. Amendment 1 prohibits laws from compelling any person or employer to purchase, obtain or otherwise provide for health-care coverage." "Amendment opposing health-care law likely will have little effect". But see "Florida Health Care Amendment Gives Voters Chance to Speak Out on Insurance Mandates".

"Amendment 6 would restrict public dollars from funding abortions or health insurance that covers abortions, except in areas covered by federal law. It also overrides Florida court decisions that have upheld broader privacy rights than the U.S. Constitution affords. Supporters say that would create an opening to push for broader parental-consent laws for minors seeking abortions." "Groups say abortion amendment would impose religious dogma".

Never mind

"Rick Scott is standing by his number on jobs created since taking office as he expressed 'hope' that job growth trends would not return to a downward slide when the latest unemployment numbers arrive on Friday. Scott, who campaigned on a promise of creating 700,000 jobs in seven years and maintains that outlook, repeatedly pointed on Tuesday to the figure of 130,000 private jobs having so far been created in Florida since January 2011."

When pressed Tuesday that the state’s positive numbers come in part from people giving up seeking work and who no longer qualify for unemployment benefits, Scott repeatedly pointed to the private-sector jobs. . . .

Scott declined to respond or comment on statements last week from Florida economists that projected if the number of people who stopped looking for work were still included in the monthly unemployment numbers, the state’s mark would touch 9.8 percent.

"Rick Scott: The Job Creation Number That Matters Is 130,000".

Walmart creeps

"Walmart apologizes for rejecting school chorus on 9/11".

Atwater sees no problem with 47% remarks

"Florida's Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater defended Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney from the national media onslaught coming his way for unguarded closed-door statements made months ago in Boca Raton." "Jeff Atwater Defends Mitt Romney’s Campaign Strategy Comments".

PSC appointment

"Rick Scott has until Sunday to decide whether to reappoint the longest serving member of the powerful state utility board, eight-year veteran Lisa Edgar, or go in a new direction. Scott interviewed Edgar and three other candidates on Tuesday, including Aventura city commissioner Luz Urbaez-Weinberg, Tampa Bay Water official David Polmann and a Ken Littlefield, a former Wesley Chapel state legislator." "Scott must decide whether to bring in new blood or keep utility board static".