Saturday, December 15, 2012

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

"You can't swing a dead cat in Tallahassee without finding a politician who likes to blame teachers for all the world's woes"

Scott Maxwell on Florida's new education secretary, Tony Bennett. Florida's only getting him because "Indiana tossed him out. "

Voters of that very conservative state — Mitt Romney won by 10 points in Indiana — booted this conservative reformer from office just last month.

Apparently a big reason is that Bennett's version of "reform" involved a whole lot of teacher-bashing.

Don't take my word for it. Take it from one of Indiana's leading voices of conservative school reform, lawyer and blogger Paul Ogden. He penned a piece titled: "Why Tony Bennett Lost — The Folly of Beating Up Teachers for Public Education's Problems."

We all know our schools need help. And maybe Bennett learned a lesson. But the last thing this state needs is another teacher-trasher.

Heck, you can't swing a dead cat in Tallahassee without finding a politician who likes to blame teachers for all the world's woes. And that's a problem — not just for the poor cat, but because demonizing teachers isn't a solution for anything.


Florida misses deadline

"Florida is being non-committal about whether it will meet [the] deadline to notify Washington if it will set up its own exchange for providing health insurance in 2014 under the federal health care law, but it appears unlikely." "Florida appears unlikely to make health exchange deadline".

Republicans demand cigars, get unruly

Lucy Morgan and Michael Van Sickler: "House Speaker Will Weatherford has apologized for the behavior of some lawmakers at a retreat last month when several Republican members who had been drinking became unruly at a Disney World hotel."

The outing began the Tuesday night after Thanksgiving at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, the priciest hotel at the theme park with rooms that fetch up to $700 a night. Paid for by the Republican Party of Florida, it was part of a traditional retreat to salute new leaders of the House after an election.
"But efforts to determine what happened and who was involved have been hampered by contradictory statements and fading memories."
The incident began when several lawmakers went to the hotel's front desk and tried to get a key to the room of Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami. When a clerk refused, one lawmaker reportedly put a $20 bill on the counter. Weatherford said he has been unable to determine who was there.

Oliva said he went to bed early, turned off his phone and was not aware until the next morning that lawmakers were trying to get cigars he had in his room.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, said he was with a group of lawmakers who stopped at the front desk after dinner. He said someone in the group asked the clerk about getting a cigar from Oliva's room.

"The entire thing lasted five minutes," Gaetz said. "Nothing inappropriate happened. It happened three weeks ago and I don't remember it."

Pressed to identify others in the group, Gaetz resisted. Asked what happened after someone asked for a cigar, he said, "Look, man, I don't precisely recall." . . .

"There were rumors of misbehavior, or at least loud and unbecoming behavior of members," Weatherford said. "I dealt with it in front of the entire membership, telling them we were there to work and I expected better from them. I didn't mention names because I didn't know who was involved.''

As the conference ended, Weatherford said he heard additional allegations of drinking and misbehavior at the front desk but is still trying to identify who was involved and what happened.

"Speaker warns lawmakers after Disney rowdiness".

Right-wingers seek to strip manatees of endangered species status

"A conservative legal foundation filed a petition with the federal government Friday to strip the manatee of its status as an endangered species, challenging protections that have prevented the construction of docks and led to slow-speed zones along Florida's rivers and canals." "Group seeks to remove manatee's endangered status". See also "Legal group challenges manatee's endangered status".

PSC excludes public counsel in rate increase agreement with Florida Power & Light

"The PSC reached an agreement with Florida Power & Light, the state's largest utility, that allows it to increase its customers' rates by $350 million. By excluding the public counsel, PSC critics said, the commission has set a dangerous precedent by essentially ignoring the people in favor of the power companies." "PSC is blasted for rate increase without counsel". More: "Florida lawmakers to look into FPL settlement".

Sincerity of Crist’s Anti-Gay Petition Regrets Questioned

"Former Gov. Charlie Crist is getting a lot of media play for formally completing his conversion from Republican to Democrat on Thursday in Tampa. But reaction to his comments from Thursday that he regrets signing an anti-gay marriage petition while running for governor in 2006 could be a strong indicator that his transformation won’t be smooth sailing if his ultimate goal is a return to the taxpayer’s Tallahassee home as governor." "Florida LGBT Activists Question Charlie Crist’s Anti-Gay Petition Regrets".

Rubio joins Axis of Silly Poltroons

Daniel Ruth: "South Carolina's own Foghorn Leghorn, Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, [is] stepping down from his seat to take a cushy job at one of the capital's most harrumphing think tanks, the uber-conservative Heritage Foundation."

To be sure, DeMint became something of modest kingmaker, championing the successful campaigns of the likes of Marco Rubio. But it is also just as likely that DeMint received a black spot in interoffice mail for his role in pretty much guaranteeing the GOP's slouch toward irrelevance. A string of DeMint-backed tea party candidates lost when more credible Republicans would have had a better chance at winning. They included Nevada's Sharron Angle, Delaware's Christine O'Donnell and Missouri's Todd Akin, who believed women possessed a magic power to ward off pregnancy after being "legitimately" raped. Loser, loser, loser.

As the Post reported, DeMint even flummoxed his colleagues by using parliamentary procedures to force weekend votes, only to blow off the actual roll call himself.

Some public servants use their time in office to build a legacy. DeMint was more interested in padding a resume. At the Heritage Foundation, he will essentially oversee an organization that cranks out talking points for the Rush Limbaugh/Glenn Beck/Sean Hannity Axis of Silly Poltroons.

"The same huckster with a new address".

And isn't it fair to add Mr. Rubio, a product of Mr. DeMint's Teabagger Machine, to that Axis of Silly Poltroons?

Weekly Roundup

"Weekly Roundup: Did He Leave His Heart in Indiana?".

Legislature enters session without budget shortfall

"Florida’s economy continued showing fresh signs of life, with analysts Friday forecasting tax collections will rise almost 5 percent next year – giving Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers more cash to spend in the state budget. . . . It seemed to bolster prospects that, for the first time since 2007, the Legislature would enter a regular session not facing a budget shortfall." "Florida revenue forecast improves, but federal “cliff” and pension ruling could hurt budget".

The best the Dems can do?

Scott Maxwell is not "keen on Charlie's chances. Here are three reasons why:"

1) He got creamed in his last election. 2) He has no base. 3) Voters have good reason not to trust him. (A few years ago, he swore he was "as conservative as you can get." Now he says: "my heart has always been … more in line with the Democratic Party.")

On the flip side, the best reason Charlie could win is this: Rick Scott. The incumbent governor is less popular than a parka at a Florida nudist resort.

I'm not saying Crist can't win. (Heck, my cat, Furball, might stand a chance against Scott if his numbers don't improve. And Charlie could charm ticks off a bloodhound.) But I am saying that, if the Democrats' best hope rests with someone who wasn't even a member of their party earlier this week, that speaks volumes about the sorry state of their prospects.

"Party-switchers, salary-raisers, teacher-trashers".

Scott stays in the dark

"A budget tracking web site paid for by Florida taxpayers but never made public will remain on the shelf as Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday that he will seek bids to create a public budget watchdog site and the vendors of the existing system can get in line with everyone else."

Dan Krassner of Integrity Florida said he hoped Scott would reconsider his decision to not give the public access to a system, even as he is seeking new bids.

“It’s disappointing that Floridians will not have access to the powerful budget tracking website that was built with $5 million in public money,’’ he said. “This is a victory for the Tallahassee insiders who will continue to know exactly how government spends our money while Floridians are left in the dark.’’

In 2011, the Senate signed a contract with Spider Data System to develop a budget transparency web site for use by the Senate and its staff to monitor the budget, state contracts and personnel services. Although the system was ready to launch in November 2011, it was never unveiled.

The Senate contract was signed by the former chief of staff Steve MacNamara, who later become the governor’s chief of staff. Before MacNamara left the governor’s office, the Senate signed memorandum of understanding transferring management of Transparency 2.0 to the governor but, uneasy about the way the contract was handled, MacNamara’s successor, Adam Hollingsworth, refused to sign the agreement.

"Gov. Scott calls for bids to build transparency web site".

$1 billion train

"The state appears set to approve a key step in All Aboard Florida's quest to build a privately financed $1 billion train to carry tourists and business travelers from Miami to Orlando International Airport." "State appears ready to get on board with Orlando-to-Miami train".

FlaDem Hispanic Caucus supporting Clendenin

"The race for chairman of the Florida Democratic Party got a lot more interesting Thursday when a leading Latino political group endorsed Tampa party activist Alan Clendenin."

Many party insiders consider Allison Tant, a top northwest Florida fundraiser for President Barack Obama, to be the favorite in the three person race. Annette Taddeo-Goldstein, the recently elected chairwoman of the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party, is the third candidate.

Tant has been praised, though not officially endorsed, by two of the state's highest ranking Democrats – U.S. Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a close Obama ally and chairman of the national Democratic Party.

But Clendenin's endorsement by the Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida could give his grassroots candidacy a boost.

"The Latino vote was very critical to Democrats' victory in Florida and any endorsement by Hispanic groups has to be taken seriously," said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida.

MacManus said the near-endorsements by Nelson and Wasserman-Schultz are powerful indicators the party's power brokers want Tant at the helm of the party as it prepares to battle Republican Rick Scott for the governorship in 2014.

"Tant could not be reached for comment."
She was elected chair of the Leon County Democratic Executive Committee on Thursday night in an agreement that saw longtime party activist Jon Ausman step aside and accept the post of state committeeman. . . .

Only county party officials, including chairmen and county delegates to the state party governing board, are eligible to run for the state chairmanship.

"Latino group's endorsement could alter race to lead state Democrats".

Legislative equivalent of a no-hitter

"U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams is on the verge of completing the legislative equivalent of a no-hitter. With just a couple of weeks left in the 112th Congress, Adams has yet to miss a single vote — even showing up with a sinus infection last week to cast her ballot on a niche bill dealing with asthma inhalers." "Adams maintains perfect voting record in U.S. House".