Friday, November 16, 2012

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

"Florida Republicans were reeling after Tuesday's election"

The Sun Sentinel editors: "By the end of Election Day, every state in the nation had tallied its votes, except for one: Flor-i-duh."

What a terrible message Florida sent the nation about how government here works.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott says government should be run like a business and that leaders should be held accountable for performance. Yet on the all-important measure of running an efficient election, he remains strangely silent.

Instead, when asked to extend early voting hours because of long lines, he said no. Facing a similar nightmare in a previous election, his predecessor put the needs of all citizens first. "When you're governor, you don't just work for one party or the other, you work for the people of the state," says former Gov. Charlie Crist.

That's not how Republican leaders in Tallahassee see things. In changing the elections law last year, former state Sen. Mike Bennett famously talked about making it tough for people to vote. After all, he said, people in Africa "literally walk two and three hundred miles" to cast a ballot.

In the end, the GOP's strategy backfired because Democrats got fired up and swung the political pendulum their way.

And now, after laying out their agenda in those proposed amendments, we know Floridians do not support repealing Obamacare, sending taxpayer dollars to religious organizations, erecting more barriers to a woman's right to choose or allowing state senators to decide who sits on the Florida Supreme Court.

By all accounts, Florida Republicans were reeling after Tuesday's election. As they sort things out, we encourage them to start by putting the needs of all Floridians first.

"Dead last is unacceptable".

The impact of Republican-controlled redistricting

Harold Meyerson: "Democrats narrowly outpolled Republicans in the total number of votes cast for congressional candidates. The margin varies depending on whether you count the races in which candidates ran unopposed and those in which members of the same party faced off (as happened in several California districts). But any way you count it, the Democrats came out ahead — in everything but the number of House seats they won."

Consider Pennsylvania, where President Barack Obama won 52 percent of the votes cast, and Democratic Sen. Bob Casey defeated his Republican rival, 53 percent to 45 percent. Yet Democrats won just five of that state's 18 U.S. House seats. They carried both districts in the Philadelphia area — by 85 percent and 89 percent, respectively — and three other districts, by 77, 69 and 61 percent. Of the 13 districts where Republicans prevailed, GOP candidates won seven with less than 60 percent of the vote; in only one district did the Republican candidate's total exceed 65 percent of the votes cast.
"Why such lopsided numbers? Because after the 2010 Census packed Democratic voters into a handful of imaginatively shaped districts around Pennsylvania's urban centers and created a slew of GOP districts in the rest of the state. The overwhelming Democratic margins in the two heavily African-American Philadelphia districts didn't require constructing oddly shaped districts, but carving up the rest of the state to minimize districts that Democrats might win required politically driven line-drawing of the highest order."
So it went in several other swing states. In Florida, Obama eked out a victory and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson won by 13 points, but Democrats will hold only 10 of the Sunshine State's 27 House seats. . . .

Republicans love to proclaim their affinity for the marketplace and the genius of competition. But it's precisely by suppressing competition, and crafting uncompetitive districts, that they maintained their hold on the House. Any notion that House Republicans have a mandate of their own that they can bring to a fight with the president is spurious. Their grasp on the House derives not from voter sentiment but almost entirely from the line-drawers' art.

"Credit gerrymandering for GOP House control".

West’s last gasp

"A St. Lucie County circuit judge has scheduled a two-hour hearing for Friday on Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West’s request for a recount of all 37,379 ballots cast during early voting in St. Lucie County in his tight reelection fight against Democrat Patrick Murphy." "Hearing set over recount in Allen West-Patrick Murphy race". Nancy Smith: "St. Lucie County Recount's a Must, but Put Away Your Conspiracy Theories". Related: "Gayle Harrell: St. Lucie County Elections ‘A Disaster’".

House Democrats Set Up 2013-2014 Leadership

"State House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, has nominated Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, as Democratic Leader Pro Tempore as he rounds out his leadership team for the 2013-2014 sessions." "House Democrats Set Up 2013-2014 Leadership with Mia Jones as Pro Tempore". Related: "Dorworth down, Weatherford announces new leadership positions; minority posts also filled".

"Florida ranks highest in October foreclosure rates"

"Florida ranks highest in October foreclosure rates".

Scott has no problem with these federal dollars

"Pratt & Whitney Aircraft intends to add 230 jobs as it expands its manufacturing facility on its 6,800 acres in northern Palm Beach County. East Hartford, Conn.-based United Technologies Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Louis ChĂȘnevert was joined by Gov. Rick Scott in announcing a $4.4 million incentive package from the state and Palm Beach County for Pratt & Whitney’s $63 million investment. The state is putting up $3.4 million, with $1 million from the county for tax exemptions and job growth incentives over four years."

Oh yeah, Pratt

is building the engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
"Pratt & Whitney Expansion to Add 230 Jobs in Northern Palm Beach County". See also "Gov. Scott touts project to bring 230 manufacturing jobs to Palm Beach County".

Lobbyists file reports

Bill Cotterell: "Lobbyists file 3rd quarter compensation reports".

Florida Socialite at Center of Scandal

"The Washington Post profiled Jill Kelley, the Tampa woman at the center of the widening scandal, and FCIR Associate Director Trevor Aaronson discussed on RT America the history of competition and mistrust between the FBI and CIA." "Florida Socialite at Center of CIA Scandal".

Feel free to reconsider

"U.S. Rep. Allen West says he has no plans to suit up for Georgia. The Palm Beach Gardens Republican who has refused to concede the Congressional District 18 contest along Florida’s Treasure Coast has told the Atlanta Journal Constitution he won’t be heading back to his native state if he has to restart his political career." "Allen West to Georgia: ‘I’m Not an NFL Free Agent’". West would fit in perfectly with the Georgia Republican Party, as "Top Georgia GOP Lawmakers Host Briefing on Secret Obama Mind-Control Plot". More: "GOP Lawmakers in Georgia Hold Closed-Door Session on Conspiracy Theory Involving President Obama, the United Nations, and Mind Control".

And state troopers had their last raise ... when?

"The day after the CEO of the state’s top tourism agency announced he was stepping down, board members quickly handpicked his replacement."

There was only one problem. Picking Visit Florida’s chief marketing officer Will Seccombe to head the agency without doing a national search could upset the agency’s main funders — state legislators and Gov. Rick Scott.

Visit Florida’ solution: give a recruiting firm a no-bid, $45,000, two-month contract to conduct a nationwide CEO search. The firm, Minnesota-based Searchwide, just happened to be the same one that brought in Seccombe five years earlier.

Now, a state watchdog group is slamming the agency's recruiting process, saying it suggests either favoritism, government waste, or both.

"Watchdog groups question tourism agency’s CEO pick".

Scott rejects coverage for 800,000 to 1.3 million uninsured Floridians

"A new study says Florida could expand Medicaid and add 800,000 to 1.3 million uninsured Floridians to the rolls 'without assuming any new net costs.' How? The researchers say the the state could save up to $100 million a year because allowing people to join Medicaid would reduce the financial burden on other state-funded safety net programs."

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the new costs for expanding Medicaid during the first three years and has agreed to foot 90 percent or more of it until 2020.

Scott has said he worries about the burden on the state budget beyond that period. He points out that the state's current Medicaid expenses are a third of the total budget, $20 billion, even though Florida's eligibility rules are stricter than most states.

But health experts and patients rights organizations say many of the state's 3.8 million uninsured residents will continue to receive care they can't pay for in hospital emergency rooms without the Medicaid expansion, so costs are passed down to other Floridians in the form of higher insurance premiums.

"Expand Medicaid, save money?".

Officials demand answers for prolonged ballot count

"Broward officials are demanding answers for the county’s prolonged ballot count, and at least one county commissioner said she expects to press Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes for an explanation Friday when the canvassing board meets to examine overseas and military ballots, and to certify official results." "Broward officials want answers for prolonged ballot count".

"Not every precinct created equally"

"When it comes to voting in Florida, not every polling place is created equally. Some Florida polling places have more than 8,000 registered voters assigned to them while others are only an eighth of that size. The result can be a wide variation in how many voting booths and scanners are available to voters in their given precinct. That can create unequal opportunities for voters, based on where they live, if there are long lines like the ones Florida voters experienced on Election Day last week."

Unlike some other states, Florida lacks a statewide standard for the ratio of voters to voting stations or voters to ballot scanners. New York restricts the ratio to no more than 800 registered voters per station. Pennsylvania sets a range of 300 to 400 registered voters per station, depending on the type of election. Ohio recommends a ratio of 175 registered voters per station.

In Orange County, home to Orlando, the ratio of non-handicapped voters to station ranged from 665 to 112 at the start of Election Day, although elections office workers drove around with some 300 extra voting booths and distributed them throughout the day when requested by poll workers. And some precinct workers, seeing large crowds, set up tables for voters to cast their ballots if they didn't mind a lack of privacy.

Miami-Dade calculates a ratio of 70 voters per voting station but that's based on an assumption that only a third of registered voters show up on Election Day, even though two-thirds of the county's registered voters cast their ballots this past election either by going to their precincts, early voting or by absentee ballots. When all registered voters are included in a precinct, the non-handicapped voting booth ratio ranges from 456 to 289, according to an Associated Press analysis. . . .

A study of Virginia election data from 2004 by University of Michigan political scientist Walter Mebane showed a decline in turnout when the ratio of actual voters per station was greater than around 350 or 400. But a follow-up analysis using 2008 election data showed the figure could be as low as 225 voters per machine.

"At some point long lines, specifically long waiting times to vote, cause turnout to decrease because voters who can't wait give up and leave," Mebane said in an email.

Following the troubled 2000 presidential election, the Florida Legislature required counties to use an optical scan system that requires voters to fill out their choices with a pen on a paper ballot, which is then fed by the voter into a scanner. The ratio of scanners to voters in each precinct also varies widely, and some voters like Cathy Kerns said they waited as long as an hour and a half to scan their ballot even after they had waited for hours to enter the polling place.

"In Fla., not every precinct is created equally".


"A Florida restaurateur has distanced himself from media reports that he will be implementing a 5 percent 'Obamacare surcharge' at his 45 restaurants. He now insists no such plans are in the offing." "Backlash? Florida Restaurants' Owner Retreats from 'Obamacare Surcharge'". Meanwhile, even Romney endorsing Orlando Sentinel editorial board recognizes that it is "Time to make way for health reform in Florida".

"'Regret' and 'remorse' after a 'difficult year'"

"Expressing 'regret' and 'remorse' after a 'difficult year' at a 'struggling' agency, Florida Corrections Secretary Ken Tucker has posted a farewell to his employees." "Ken Tucker Offers ‘Regret’ as he Retires from Florida Prisons".