Friday, September 28, 2012

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

"The unstated but all-too-apparent goal: reducing the turnout of black voters"

The Palm Beach Post editors: "State elections officials wasted no time in celebrating a federal judge’s decision this week not to block Florida’s repressive new law that reduces the number of early voting days. But their legal victory was thin, technical, and seemed begrudged by the very judge who granted it."

Little wonder. This was the judge who, during a hearing last week, disparaged the Legislature’s early-voting changes as “a resolution in search of no problem.” U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan of Jacksonville was only stating the obvious. The shortened early-voting period – reduced to eight days from at least 12 in 2008, even though the total number of hours will remain the same – was pushed through over protests by voter-rights groups and Florida’s 67 election supervisors. The unstated but all-too-apparent goal: reducing the turnout of black voters, who disproportionately use early voting and tend to vote Democratic.
"Despite judge’s ruling, intent of early-voting change is obvious". More: An inept, shameless voter purge".

Florida officials refuse to meet to implement "Obamacare"

"With the clock ticking on Florida’s ability to control how it applies the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, pediatricians say they’ve been trying to meet with the agency that oversees the state’s Medicaid program --- to no avail. The Agency for Health Care Administration last month declined a request from the Florida Pediatric Society to discuss how the state will implement those aspects of the federal health-care overhaul that relate to children." "Pediatricians: Florida state officials refuse to meet to talk about implementing Obamacare".

Hillsborough should replace volunteer firefighters

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Hillsborough County should replace its volunteer firefighters with full-time professionals. That's the only responsible conclusion to draw from a recent audit that found numerous problems and only modest cost savings from using the volunteers. Replacing the ranks with professionals puts public safety first. It's not cheap, but it makes financial sense."

Hillsborough County runs the largest fire rescue operation in the state, and outside auditors recently praised it for "strong leadership," a "high sense of responsibility" and "unity of command." These are high marks for an urban county that hired its first full-time firefighters not 40 years ago. They speak to the department's ability to handle the increasingly complex tasks that firefighters must handle, from containing hazardous spills to answering medical and rescue calls.
"Hillsborough needs full-time firefighters".

"DEP permitting initiative threatens future water supplies"?

"DEP says water management districts should not reduce water-use permits after they have been issued. Environmental groups, commenting on draft proposed rule changes, are asking how the state can ensure that future water supplies and the environment can be protected if permits can't be modified." "Environmental groups say DEP permitting initiative threatens future water supplies".

Mini-Mack whines about crooked polls

"The U.S. Senate campaign for Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, strongly disputes the results of recent polls by the CBS News/New York Times-commissioned Quinnipiac Poll and from the Washington Post that 'serve no other purpose than to attempt to sway public opinion and voter enthusiasm.'" "Connie Mack’s Camp Disputes Polling Attempts to ‘Sway’ Senate Contest".

"Poverty Rising Among Floridians"

Ashley Lopez: "According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Floridians are among the poorest in the country, and the state’s already stark income gap is widening." "U.S. Census: Poverty Rising Among Floridians".

"Pay a little more now or a lot more later"

The Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board: "Floridians can pay a little more now or a lot more later. That was the message delivered to Gov. Rick Scott last week in a letter signed by 20 former water management district board members from across the state. The letter urged the governor to restore $240 million in funding he stripped from the five water district budgets last year." "Florida's water bill".

"Sleep the sleep of angels "

Joe Henderson: "The judges are on the hit list, many believe, because they were part of a 5-2 vote that blocked the state's efforts to overturn President Barack Obama's health-care law. A short history lesson: Voters approved a constitutional amendment in the 1970s known as merit retention. Every six years, justices face a yes-or-no vote on whether they keep their jobs."

If the majority decides against retention, Gov. Rick Scott gets to appoint replacements — unless Amendment 5 passes in November, which could put the decision in the hands of the state Senate. Sleep the sleep of angels contemplating Supreme Court justices chosen by the body that gave us JD Alexander.
"When activists cry 'activism'".

"Constitutionally confused?"

Scott Maxwell: "Constitutionally confused? Let me help". In the meantime, that lefty "League of Women Voters urges straight 'no' ticket on amendments". See also "League, GOP mostly agree: Vote no on amendments".

"Makes me feel so very Mitt"

Fred Grimm: "While the freeloaders and moochers and the 47 percenters sit seething , I’m speeding, leaving the rabble in sluggish traffic and my egalitarian values back on the freeway. It’s all I can do to keep from waving bye-bye as I zoom along. Makes me feel so very Mitt. Nothing captures the spirit of the new two-tiered America like the go-fast pay lanes we’re adding to clogged-up freeways, with variable tolls calculated by the amount of misery suffered over in the proletariat lanes. We like to call this 'congestion pricing,' because that sounds so much better than, 'See ya, peon.'" "Feeling like Mitt: Life in I-95’s fast lane".

A stooge for Rivera

Ashley Lopez: "Lamar Sternad, who ran in the Democratic primary against Joe Garcia for a South Florida congressional seat, admitted to the FBI that he was a stooge for incumbent Republican David Rivera." "Fake Candidate Tells FBI Congressman David Rivera Secretly Ran Campaign".

"Contracts that were not competitively bid"

"The Department of Economic Opportunity and its legacy agency have spent $750,000 to redesign its website, build a content management system and review its communications related to unemployment compensation over five contracts that were not competitively bid." "Jobs agency spends $750,000 on overhaul of websites".

Scott's job favorability rating slides

"In spite of his recent efforts to mend fences with Florida educators and other constituents, Gov. Rick Scott's favorability rating has fallen among state residents in a new poll about his job performance." "Scott's job favorability rating takes a fall".

Teachers Union talks with Scott

"Teachers Union Sees Talks With Rick Scott Moving Beyond 'Second Date'".

Disney a right-wing money machine

"Disney's political spending in Florida has ballooned to unprecedented levels: It has spent nearly twice as much money as it had at this same point during the 2010 elections, and it has spent about six times as much as it did during the entire 2008 cycle. Nearly 90 cents of every dollar that Disney has spent on Florida campaigns in this election has gone to Republican candidates or Republican-leaning interest groups, according to the [Orlando] Sentinel's analysis." "Disney World 'flexing its bicep' in Florida elections".

"Darden quadruples PAC donations"

The Orlando-based "Darden [primarily Olive Garden and Red Lobster] has given 60 percent of its contributions to Republican candidates, PACs and parties, according to analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics. " "Darden quadruples PAC donations to $684K".

"Dorworth's nearly $1 million personal political fund"

"State Rep. Chris Dorworth is a study in political contradictions."

His personal finances are a shambles, but his ability to raise and spend political money in the capital is nearly unmatched. . . . Dorworth uses his power base in the Capitol and his skill at raising special interest money to sustain a nearly $1 million personal political fund called Citizens for an Enterprising Democracy.

Super-sized campaign contributions allow Dorworth to employ a travel aide, campaign strategist, fund-raising consultant and media adviser.

He pays for airplane trips and catered meals, using unrestricted political donations from an array of interests that covet his support, from citrus growers to healthcare insurers to law firms to Internet cafes. In July, Disney Worldwide Services stroked an $80,000 check to Dorworth. . . .

When Dorworth flew to San Francisco last year — to raise money, he says — and then to Taiwan for a goodwill mission with other legislators, the fund paid for it. (The fund’s website is A second lawmaker, Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, also raises money for it.)

The fund has paid for phones, office supplies and personalized Dorworth polo shirts. It racked up $3,300 in bills in a three-month period at 101 Restaurant & Lounge, a Tallahassee watering hole where Dorworth is a presence during legislative sessions.

Dorworth also reimbursed himself nearly $32,000 in out-of-pocket expenses from the fund at a time when his personal net worth was plummeting. Most expenses were in 2009 and 2010 when he was running for speaker, and he said he has never personally benefited from the fund.

Much more here: "Future House speaker’s big donors fund lavish political operation".

"Comprehensive gambling review"

"Florida needs a new gambling policy that covers racinos, Seminole casinos, Internet betting parlors and proposals for huge Las Vegas-style casinos, legislative leaders say. And they want to take a two-year break from tinkering with gambling laws so they can devise the new comprehensive policy." "Legislative leaders call for comprehensive gambling review".

Republican/League of Cities attack on defined benefit plans

LeRoy Collins' namesake "Institute" releases a so-called "report" that is little more than a Republican/League of Cities Powerpoint attack on defined benefit plans: "Municipal pension plans are stretching thinner in Florida as a smaller workforce supports a growing number of retirees — with prospects bleak that funds will recover, a report released Wednesday concludes."

The Leroy Collins Institute’s latest review of the plans found that while the sluggish economy has contributed to the funds’ problems, deeper woes plague them. “These municipal pension issues were not created overnight and can’t be changed overnight,” said David Matkin, a public administration professor at Florida State University, who studied Florida’s 492 municipal pension plans for the Tallahassee-based institute. The problems track those facing the Social Security system or Medicare: Too few workers supporting a growing number of retirees. If anything, municipal budget cuts and layoffs in recent years have contributed to the imbalance, analysts said.
"Study shows pension woes here to stay in Florida".

"Amendment 4 is easily the most colorful"

"Of all the campaigns surrounding the Sunshine State’s 2012 ballot initiatives, the one promoting Amendment 4 is easily the most colorful." "Pain in the Assets? Realtors, Local Governments Debate Florida Property Tax Amendment".

Republican Party of Florida is shocked! Shocked!

"Republicans on Thursday fired a vendor suspected of submitting 108 questionable new voter registrations in Florida's Palm Beach County, ground zero for disputed ballots in 2000's presidential race." "GOP fires vendor after questionable registrations".

Biden hits SoFla

"Biden seeks seniors' votes for Obama in Fla. stops". See also "Biden coming to Century Village of Boca Raton today".

"Just another means of buying votes"

The Miami Herald editors: "Their nearest neighbors’ painful lessons to the contrary, Broward County commissioners have agreed to give themselves 'discretionary' funds to pay for projects in their districts. It may sound very civic-minded and public-spirited, this idea of commissioners doling out money to underwrite worthwhile projects for their constituents. In truth, these slush funds are just another means of buying votes at county taxpayers’ expense." "Broward’s slushy honey pots".

That's all they got?

"According to the state's voter-registration database, only 38 of the 198 people on the new list ever voted. Of those, records show, 16 voted only once. Most of the people on the list live in South Florida, including 82 in Miami-Dade County, 23 in Broward County and 14 in Palm Beach County." "State names 198 noncitizens illegally registered to vote". "The state sent counties a new potential noncitizens voter list 41 days before the Nov. 6 election. Some on the list said they’re citizens. Others said they’re not, denying they voted. One said she voted." "State names 198 noncitizens illegally registered to vote". Meanwhile, "The state's effort to weed non-citizens from voter rolls may purge few voters in the 39 days before election day because of legal challenges, bureaucratic processes and Florida's agreement with the federal government." "Removal of non-citizens from voter rolls could be delayed". Related: "With New List, Counties Again Prepare to Check Voter Eligibility".

"Absentee voting is more prone to fraud"

"If you vote early in an election in Florida, it’s there for the world to see: The Legislature requires an online listing of everyone who voted early and when and where they voted."

But if you vote by mail and request an absentee ballot, it’s a closely held secret, available to a few. [Candidates with opposition, political parties, political committees, and committees of continuous existence, known as CCEs, which are mostly controlled by trade groups, unions, or legislators.] The information is off limits to the public. The Legislature mandated that, too.

As more people vote by mail, including one of every three people who voted in the Aug. 14 primary, candidates must spend more time and money seeking to influence those voters before they fill out their ballots.

The practice of “chasing” absentee voters with direct mail and phone calls is a key strategic component of any effective campaign. . . .

Yet, as it grows in popularity in Florida, absentee voting is more prone to fraud and other problems as ballots pass through many pairs of hands:

In Miami-Dade, a police investigation has resulted in the arrests of two ballot brokers in Hialeah, both accused of filling out ballots for others.

In Madison, east of Tallahassee, nine people, including a county elections supervisor and School Board member, are charged with voter fraud stemming from absentee-ballot voting in a 2010 election. Both are suspended from office pending the outcome of the “Madison Nine” case.

In Tallahassee, a judge last week upheld a canvassing board’s rejection of 40 absentee ballots in a tight Palm Beach County state Senate race because none of the voters’ signatures on absentee ballot paperwork matched those on file. Some Haitian-American voters’ ballots were rejected because their printed names did not resemble their cursive signatures.

Historically, voting by mail has been more popular among Republican voters while Democrats have favored early voting since it began in 2004.

"Absentee ballots draw scrutiny".

CD 10

"U.S. Rep. Dan Webster has run a low-key re-election campaign so far, but a rally on Friday signals a change in intensity for the mild-mannered Republican from Winter Garden. . . . Similar campaign stops helped Webster beat incumbent Alan Grayson in 2008. This year, he faces a challenge in the new 10th District from Democrat Val Demings, Orlando's former police chief." "Dan Webster to rally supporters from his pickup".

"Republican Party wrong"

The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Not only has the Republican Party of Florida joined the lynch mob going after three Florida Supreme Court justices, the GOP is being dishonest about its motives." "Republican Party wrong to target Florida Supreme Court justices".

"What you see is not always what you get"

Beth Kassab: "Mike Horner's campaign materials and official bio portray him as the prototypical conservative. A pro-business Republican who cheers small government. A champion of lower taxes. A lifetime NRA member. And a made-for-a-political-brochure life: wife, son, dogs, cats and horses."

His startling resignation this week was a kick-in-the-gut reminder that what you see is not always what you get. . . .

Good judgment is a job requirement.

Too often, though, we find out that despite the gleaming campaign brochures and the well-rehearsed rhetoric that one critical qualification is missing.

"Mike Horner's resignation a smart move". Meanwhile, "Applicants line up to succeed Mike Horner in state House race".


"In a blunt-talking scolding, Sen. Don Gaetz calls out lobbyists for nasty mailers and criticizes Tallahassee business group for actively supporting his opponents". "Incoming Senate president chastises business group for not backing his picks".

Libertarian candidate faces challenges in Florida

"The marijuana legalization proposal faces tough challenges in Florida. So does Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson." "Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson backs Florida ballot drive to legalize medicinal marijuana".