Monday, October 01, 2012

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

"Remember all that talk from Republicans about voter fraud?"

Marc Caputo: "President Barack Obama has received unexpected help from the unlikeliest of quarters: The Republican National Committee."

Devoted to bashing Obama, the RNC gave the president’s reelection campaign a political contribution of sorts by insisting that state parties, such as Florida’s, hire a vendor that’s now under investigation for voter-registration fraud by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in as many as 10 counties involving at least 220 suspect forms.

Remember all that talk from Republicans about voter fraud?

Well, it ain’t just for ACORN anymore.

"Now, instead of being on offense against Obama, Republicans are playing defense over voter-registration fraud. Some organized Republican voter-registration drives have virtually ground to a halt as Republicans fired the firm, Strategic Allied Consulting, in seven battleground states."
Republicans this year in Florida have added about 46,000 new voters to the rolls. Democrats have added 220,000 — and a good deal of that work was done by the Obama campaign and unpaid volunteers, Democrats say.

Democrats now lead Republicans by 443,166 active registered Florida voters. Expect that lead to grow.

The numbers are instructive. They indicate that Republicans felt the need to do something to boost their ranks and make it look like there was enthusiasm for their party as well.

The chances that Republicans wanted to create phony voters to fraudulently cast ballots are unlikely. It’s almost impossible to do, and it could result in a felony charge.

The fraud, to the degree there was any, was probably committed by part-time workers who wanted to collect a paycheck and do little work or by zealots who wanted to show Republicans gaining strength on the ground.

"Republicans play defense over voter registration fraud".

Florida Republican fund-raiser with golf cart full of "presumed prostitutes"

"Delmar Johnson, the state's star witness in the fraud and theft trial of former Florida Republican Chairman Jim Greer, told attorneys in a sworn statement that he saw a golf cart full of women — he presumed they were prostitutes — at a party fund-raiser in the Bahamas in 2008."

Johnson, 33, of Winter Garden, gave a video-recorded deposition June 15 in the criminal case against Greer, the ousted party chairman now awaiting trial on theft and fraud charges. The Orlando Sentinel obtained a copy Friday.

Johnson's most dramatic revelation was about a party fund-raiser in the Bahamas in 2008. In attendance were major party donors and prominent Florida Republicans, he said.

"I specifically saw a golf cart with young ladies drive by, the extent of why they were there I did not specifically know," Johnson said. "But I could presume they were prostitutes."

In his deposition, Johnson identified a handful of prominent Republicans whom he said were at the fund-raiser, including Greer and Tallahassee lobbyist Brian Ballard.

Ballard said Friday night that he was there, along with about 100 other people, and said he knew nothing about any guests spending time with prostitutes.

"RPOF's former director: 'Presumed' prostitutes attended GOP fundraiser".

200 residents, farm workers and clergy protest Publix

"Nearly 200 residents, farm workers and members of the clergy protested outside the Broadway Promenade Publix on Sunday on behalf of tomato harvesters they say are underpaid. Prohibited from leaving the sidewalk along the Tamiami Trail, they reiterated their objections to the store's recent trespass warning against a local minister and the grocery store chain's refusal to strike an agreement to get higher wages for tomato farm laborers." "Protesters ask Publix to support tomato harvesters".

"Capital Briefs"

"State Capital Briefs".

The best she can do?

Nancy Smith does her best to explain why, "In November when [she will] vote not to retain the three justices on the ballot, it will have nothing to do with a handful of Florida rulings that run contrary to my politics. It will have everything in the world to do with competence."

Justices Barbara J. Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy A. Quince, up for retention this cycle, didn't invent the existing judicial system. But they are part of it. And they did fail to learn from the past, fail to mind the store, fail to stop disasters that happened on their watch.

Allow me to present my case for the general incompetence of the judiciary and the Bar -- the legal system at the highest level in Florida.

Like any other arm of government, the judicial branch needs that eye in the sky, that secret camera. It needs self-policing and constant correction. That's how the merit retention of judges and justices came to be.

She contines her argument here: "Ask Justices and the Florida Bar: What Happened to Competence?".

"Amendment 8 has created a firestorm of controversy"

"The ballot title says it's an issue about religious freedom."

Supporters, including Catholics statewide, say it's all about making sure that soup kitchens, elder care and other services provided by faith-based organizations aren't left out in the cold.

Opponents say it's a smokescreen designed to pave the way for a school voucher program at church-run schools, and that it will erode the separation between church and state. A school board member in Alachua County even called it "the very death of public schools."

Either way, the 72-word Amendment 8, titled "Religious Freedom" and sponsored by the Florida Legislature, has created a firestorm of controversy as the Nov. 6 election nears.

"Critics say amendment veiled try to get public money to private schools".

"One-fourth of the nation's new jobs last month were created in Florida"

"About one-fourth of the nation's new jobs last month were created in Florida, a hopeful sign that the stricken state will slowly resume its customary role as an engine for economic growth over the next four years. Economists say it might happen, and Florida voters certainly hope so." "Signs of recovery may influence voters' presidential choices".

Hialeah ballot-broker coordinated and attended campaign events during county work hours

"Like many Hialeah ballot-brokers, 25-year-old Anamary Pedrosa began collecting absentee ballots this summer from those close to her, including her mother and a cousin’s boyfriend."

At the same time, the former aide to Miami-Dade County Commissioner Esteban Bovo was establishing herself as a sophisticated campaign worker in a world that is dominated by her elders.

During county work hours, Pedrosa coordinated and attended campaign events for at least one candidate for the state Legislature and four judicial candidates. She told candidates she would introduce them to elderly Hispanic voters, and took them to meet her grandmother’s neighbors in a low-income apartment building in Hialeah Gardens.

Pedrosa, who received immunity from prosecution after giving a sworn statement to authorities, is a key figure in a growing criminal investigation that began in late July after she dropped off a bundle of 164 absentee ballots at a post office. Those who know the young Cuban immigrant do not understand why she was gathering the ballots in Bovo’s office or getting involved with political campaigns.

"Woman who dropped off questionable ballots did political work on county time".

"Draconian cutbacks to education, roads and schools"

"Depending on who’s doing the analysis, a proposed amendment that would change the formula for limiting the amount of revenue Florida can collect each year from taxes and fees would either rein in willy-nilly government spending or cause Draconian cutbacks to education, roads and schools."

Florida’s constitution already includes a revenue cap aimed at curtailing state spending. But that limit, which hasn’t been reached since voters put it in the constitution in 1994, doesn’t go far enough, according to the Republican lawmakers who put Amendment 3, a measure they call the “Smart Cap,” on this year’s Nov. 6 ballot.

The existing cap limits the increase in state revenue in any year to the average annual rate of growth in Florida personal income over the previous five years. Amendment 3 would replace the 1994 formula with one that would limit each year’s increase in revenue to the average annual change over the previous five years in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index times the state’s rate of change in population.

If state revenue were to exceed the limit in any given year, the amendment would require the excess to first go into a stabilization fund, then be used to reduce the amount school districts are required to pay the state to pay for education and, if any more remained, finally be returned to taxpayers.

According to the legislature’s staff analysis of the proposed amendment, Amendment 3 would cap the state’s revenue in 2014 at $32.3 billion, compared to the nearly $50 billion cap under the current formula. State economists estimate that Florida’s actual revenue in 2014 will be about $31.6 billion, or about $657 million below the proposed cap compared to the $18.4 billion buffer remaining under current law.

"Groups opposed to proposed amendment limiting state revenue more active than those supporting it".

Minutes away from winning

"Palm Beach County Commissioner Shelley Vana was minutes away from winning a second and final term without opposition, when Republican Cliff Montross filed papers to challenge her for the District 3 seat." "Perennial candidate Montross challenges incumbent Vana for Palm Beach County commission seat".

Amendment 4

"Voters will revisit one of the Florida Legislature's pet pocketbook issues in November, with nearly half of the proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot addressing property tax breaks." "Amendment 4 foes: Tax breaks mean unintended consequences".