Saturday, December 01, 2012

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

Dems most successful Florida election cycle in decades

Adam C. Smith: "Democrats just concluded their most successful Florida election cycle in more than three decades, not just delivering the state to President Barack Obama and re-electing Sen. Bill Nelson, but also picking up state House, state Senate and congressional seats."

But don't get cocky, Florida Democrats. In many respects, 2014 is more important for the vitality of the party than 2012.

As you prepare to elect a new state party chairman there's every reason to worry heading into the new election cycle, even against vulnerable Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

You won't have the massive Obama grassroots machine registering and turning out tens of thousands of new voters. Or a lavishly-funded TV campaign of Obama. And if past is prologue, Florida Republicans will have far stronger turnout than Democrats.

"To win in 2014, Florida Democrats must build on momentum".

Republican Party of Florida golf cart full of prostitutes under wraps

"Floridians will have to wait a little longer for details of that [Republican Party of Florida] golf cart full of prostitutes"

The Fifth District Court of Appeal on Friday ruled in favor of anonymous petitioners who want to block the release of investigative reports about a gathering in the Bahamas sponsored by the Republican Party of Florida when Jim Greer was chairman.
"Greer faces trial in February for allegedly defrauding the party of about $200,000. Reports of the party and prostitutes surfaced during a pretrial hearing in the summer."
Orlando Judge Marc Lubet declared the reports public record in July after hearing objections from Orlando lawyer Richard E. Hornsby who said he wanted to spare his clients from being embarrassed. . . . He would not identify the clients who want to keep it sealed.

Lubet read the report and then asked prosecutors if GOP lobbyist Brian Ballard, former party finance chair Harry Sergeant III, former party executive director Delmar Johnson and Dane Eagle, a former aide to Gov. Charlie Crist who was elected to the Florida House in November, would be called as witnesses in Greer’s criminal trial.

When Assistant Statewide Prosecutor Michael Williams said all but Eagle are slated to be witnesses, the judge ordered the report released because it is part of the evidence turned over to defense attorneys in the criminal case. Under Florida law documents given to a defendant are public record.

But in a brief unsigned opinion Fifth District Court of Appeal Chief Judge Richard B. Orfinger and Judges Thomas D. Sawaya and Bruce W. Jacobus said "the documents should not be disseminated and should remain confidential at this time."

"Report on GOP shindig to remain sealed".

"Need to correct Florida’s abysmal record on holding elections"

The Miami Herald editorial board: "The new Florida Senate President Don Gaetz hails from a small town in north Florida called Niceville (pop 11,684). Sworn in last week, he gave a forceful speech about the need to correct Florida’s abysmal record on holding elections. . . . This means something coming from the head of the Florida Senate, where gerrymandering, reduced voting hours and restrictions on voter registration drives all were driven by previous Republican leadership." "Winds of change?".

Changes as Scott's re-election bid looms

"After once advocating the rapid dissolution of Florida’s state-run home insurance company, Gov. Rick Scott is now emphasizing less aggressive property insurance changes as his 2014 re-election bid looms and public anger grows over rate increases." "Rick Scott softens stance on changes to Citizens insurance".

"Then politics happened"

"Scott used tough language in the summer of 2011 when he created a panel to help fix the deadly abuse and neglect in Florida assisted living facilities."

He pledged to provide protections for elderly and disabled ALF residents, who in recent years saw sweeping breakdowns of care as lawmakers stripped regulations and failed to protect the state’s most vulnerable people from burns, beatings and death.

Then politics happened.

In a change of tide, Scott’s panel issued its final report this week, calling for diminished transparency, fewer regulations and more money for ALF operators. The panel calls for the state to better enforce existing rules rather than create new ones. And to reward ALFs when they do right rather than punish them when they do wrong.

"The recommendations are a product of more than a year of contentious meetings and a panel on which advocates for the powerful ALF industry had the lion’s share of seats." "Scott’s ALF panel let industry off hook, critics say". See also "Neglected To Death: Read more exclusive stories from the Miami Herald's I-Team investigation".

"Florida's dying springs"

The Orlando Sentinel editors: "It's up to Rick Scott to help Florida's dying springs".

Scott refused to prepare Florida for the ACA

The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "For nearly two years, Gov. Rick Scott has refused to prepare Florida for the Affordable Care Act. Now that he has no other choice, he wants to negotiate with the Obama administration. He’s missed too many deadlines."

The governor campaigned in 2010 against the ACA, which had become law that March. After being elected, he first hoped that the U.S. Supreme Court would keep him from having to implement the law. When the court upheld the law last June, Gov. Scott hoped that Mitt Romney’s election would save him. Because the governor resisted so long, putting politics over patients in a state with the second-highest rate of uninsured residents, Florida would not be ready to set up a key aspect of the law. . . .

The Florida House and Senate have created committees to study the health care law, but the Legislature doesn’t open its session until March.

Gov. Scott could have been readying Florida for the law, even as he rooted for the Supreme Court and Mr. Romney. His needless delay means that he must ask for Washington’s help mostly on Washington’s terms.

"Florida waited too long on ‘Obamacare’".

Birther lawsuit plods along in Tally

"The state of Florida, now known as much for election controversies as oranges and sunshine, may still hold a surprise for everyone who thought the 2012 presidential election was over and done with."

In a largely forgotten court case being litigated in Tallahassee, lawyers are still arguing about whether President Barack Obama was qualified to run for president in the first place.

Attorney Larry E. Klayman of Washington, D.C., a controversial Republican activist, and his client, Michael C. Voeltz, a registered Democrat from Broward County, have refused to concede the election outcome. They are still pursuing an Obama "birther" challenge in an appeal in Tallahassee.

The judges of the Florida First District Court of Appeal have refused to submit the case immediately to the Florida Supreme Court, as requested by Klayman. On Nov. 27 they also refused Klayman's request that the court handle the appeal on an expedited basis.

Klayman is advancing two arguments: (1) Obama has never established that he is a "natural born citizen" as required under Article II of the U.S. Constitution because his Hawaii birth certificate posted online "has either been altered or is entirely fraudulent"; and (2) Obama was born to a mother who was a United States citizen and a father who was a citizen of Kenya, and to be a "natural born citizen" a candidate for president must have been born in this country to two U.S. citizen parents.

Unfortunately, the term "natural born citizen" is not defined in the Constitution.

Klayman began his legal challenge by filing suit in the state circuit court in Tallahassee in February, asking Circuit Judge Terry P. Lewis to declare that Obama was not constitutionally eligible to run for president.

Obama's lawyers relied on an 1898 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, United States v. Wong Kim Ark, which held that every person "born in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, becomes at once a citizen of the United States." In that case — which did not involve a president's qualifications — a cook born in San Francisco whose parents were both Chinese citizens living in this country was held to be a U.S. citizen at birth under the 14th Amendment.

In June, agreeing with Obama's lawyers, Judge Lewis granted their motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

"In his appeal, Klayman is arguing that being a U.S. "citizen" and a "natural born citizen" qualified to run for president are not constitutional equivalents."
He is arguing that the authors of Article II consulted and relied on a 1758 treatise by Swiss legal expert Emmerich de Vattel called "The Law of Nations." That treatise states that "natural born citizens are those born in the country of parents who are citizens" and that "the country of the father is the country of the son."
"Obama's victory still disputed".

Dirty fight

"The Florida Wildlife Federation is challenging the proposed DEP permit for the Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank in Clay County. Now the mitigation bank is accusing the environmental group of working on behalf of a competing wetlands mitigation bank in Duval County." "Mitigation bank seeks to turn tables on environmental group challenging its permit".

Promises, promises

"During the past month he rallied with Mitt Romney, dealt with the national fallout from seven-hour voting lines in Miami-Dade County and late election results, pivoted his stance on the federal health care law after President Barack Obama defeated Romney, and challenged state colleges to hold four-year degrees under $10,000. He also found time to crisscross the state unveiling jobs announcements where companies either moved to Florida or expanded existing operations, promising new jobs and investment in exchange for taxpayer incentives." "Amid busy month, Gov. Scott pounds jobs pavement".

"So far, it hasn't gone well"

"Now that Election Day is done, Central Florida's congressional delegation is gearing up for the next competition — snaring seats on powerful committees that can determine everything from road money to space policy. So far, it hasn't gone well." "Congressional delegation jockeying for influence".

Siegel's back

"Mark Alan Siegel, who resigned under intense pressure this summer as chairman of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party, is attempting a political comeback."

Siegel is running for state committeeman, a top county party post that would allow him to pursue his long-held dream of running for chairman of the Florida Democratic Party.

He turned instantly radioactive at the party's national convention in Charlotte, N.C., when he said in a videotaped interview that fundamentalist Christian support of Israel was a "false friendship" because those Christians only endorse Israel's survival as the site of Armageddon, where many believe Christ will smite evil and establish an earthly kingdom.

Fearing the controversy could hurt Democratic candidates and wanting to end news coverage of the issue as quickly as possible, party leaders — including U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, and state Democratic Chairman Rod Smith — demanded Siegeal immediately remove himself from the county party.

"Ousted Democratic chairman Siegel attempting political comeback".

Let the campaign fund raising begin

"Governor Rick Scott is leading a 190-person delegation on a five-day trip to Colombia to promote Florida’s products and businesses." "Scott off to Colombia on latest trade mission".

"Scott’s latest brilliant idea"

Fabiola Santiago: "Scott’s latest brilliant idea: He wants you, young Floridian, to get a cheap college education. Not just any education, but a four-year bachelor’s degree for the bargain-basement price of $10,000."

It’s not hard to see that behind the governor’s proposal lurks the ideological zealotry that has marked his two years in office.
"He’ll do whatever it takes to make sure Florida’s future generations of college graduates do not get the kind of well-rounded education that helps them become independent, critical thinkers, engaged citizens. You know, people who vote with a social conscience."
That Scott, who’s headed to end up in the record books as the most unpopular governor in Florida history, would dream up a populist gimmick in an attempt to boost his poll rankings, is not surprising.

But most troubling is that Scott’s proposal received the backing of every member of the state Board of Education —except, thankfully, vice chair Roberto Martinez. . . .

Funding education, Martinez added, is the investment we need to make.

Scott could start by restoring the funds he and the Republican-dominated Legislature have slashed from colleges and universities to the tune of $300 million during the past two years.

"Fabiola Santiago: Gov’s 10K tuition push is political gimmick".

"Gambling fight is likely to simmer in 2013"

"A bill to bring large casinos to South Florida drew the glitzy and glamorous headlines this year, but ultimately went bust under the weight of heavy lobbying by entrenched and competing interests. Now, after a legislative session punctuated by a heated fight between and among the Central Florida hospitality industry led by Walt Disney World, large-scale casino conglomerates, pari-mutuels, Seminole Indian casinos, social conservatives opposed to new gaming and Internet sweepstakes cafĂ© operators, Florida’s gambling fight is likely to simmer in 2013." "New Senate Gaming Committee plays the long game".