Wednesday, December 12, 2012

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

"Behind-the-scenes battle for who leads the Florida House"

Marc Caputo: "A Republican is suing the Republican Party of Florida, saying it disenfranchised him and some Republican voters. On its face, the lawsuit filed last week by former Miami-Dade School Board member Renier Diaz de la Portilla looks like a simple paperwork fight over an obscure party position. But the underpinnings of the case are much more complicated, involving the byzantine politics of Miami-Dade and the behind-the-scenes battle in Tallahassee for who leads the Florida House in six years."

The lawsuit is also another public-relations headache for the Republican Party of Florida, which would prefer to focus its energies on bigger matters, like promoting Gov. Rick Scott.

But RPOF has no choice. It has to deal with Diaz de la Portilla.

He was elected Aug. 14 as Republican State Executive Committeeman from Miami-Dade. The party, though, refused to seat him. It said he forgot to submit a loyalty oath to the party in Tallahassee. . . .

Diaz de la Portilla signed the oath June 5, got it notarized and promptly submitted it to the county and state elections offices as well as the local Republican Party, according to documents he filed in his lawsuit.

In a sworn affidavit, Miami-Dade Republican Party Executive Director Yulexis Argota said he faxed the loyalty oath to party headquarters in Tallahassee on June 6 and then personally spoke with a party official who confirmed receipt.

Burgess, though, said that this evidence presented by Diaz de la Portilla wasn’t “definitive proof” that he filed his oath properly. That means RPOF isn’t budging.

"But the potential stakes are far bigger than this largely ceremonial party post."
After all, the committeeman battle is bound up in the fight over who becomes Florida House Speaker, from 2018 to 2020. . . .

But the more the case develops, the less it looks like it’s a fight about the preference of rank-and-file voters for a position that few understand.

Caputo explains the oh-so-Republican intricacies here: "Republican insider fight becomes headache for GOP".

"Three requests to Tallahassee"

"Miami-Dade's mayor and elections supervisor asked Florida's secretary of state Tuesday to relay three requests to Tallahassee to try to fix last month's elections woes:"

Extend the number of early-voting days. Expand early voting to sites other than public libraries, city halls and elections offices. Cap the number of words in state constitutional ballot questions.
Here's the hitch:
Secretary of State Ken Detzner said he would carry Miami-Dade's message to his boss, Gov. Rick Scott, after completing visits to five problem counties and drafting recommendations for improvement. Those suggestions require the approval of state legislators who wrote the elections laws in the first place.
"Officials suggest election changes".

Tone deaf

"Florida’s new legislative leaders handed out hefty raises and salaries to many of their top staff and newly hired talent even as thousands of state workers went for a sixth year without a bump in pay."

Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford, who were sworn in last month, immediately hired new chiefs of staff and paid them more than taxpayers pay state Cabinet officials. They are paying 62 top policy advisors and staff directors more than $100,000 a year. And they gave salary increases totaling $252,000 to their 17 highest paid employees. . . .

The salaries were “based on a number of factors including increased workload, matching offers made by other organizations, merit, recommendations from supervisors and years of service,’’ said Ryan Duffy, Weatherford spokesman. (Duffy is paid $95,000, a $20,000 increase over what he was making last year as spokesman for the House Republican office.)

State workers, by contrast, have not seen a pay raise in six years. Last year, the Legislature also tapped into their take-home pay by trimming three percent to pay the annual contribution to the Florida Retirement System.

"Legislative leaders dish out salary increases to top staff".

"It isn't exactly a roaring recovery. But Florida's once-heralded land conservation program is creeping back from the dead." "State to buy more land for conservation".

5 reasons Crist should run, 5 reasons he shouldn't

Adam C. Smith and Steve Bousquet write that, "It was the biggest piece of thoroughly unsurprising news in months: "

Charlie Crist is becoming a Democrat.

The next expectation is Crist will announce a campaign for Florida governor. He's tanned, rested and ready after two years at a high-profile law firm and anyone who follows his career has a hard time picturing Crist out of public life forever.

But the Florida Republicans' prince-turned-pariah is no lock to win a Democratic primary against the likes of Alex Sink, let alone a general election against Gov. Rick Scott, who can pour tens of millions of his own money into a re-election campaign.

"A Crist candidacy has pros and cons. Here are five reasons why the former governor should run again and five reasons why he shouldn't": "5 reasons Charlie Crist should run for governor, 5 reasons he shouldn't".

Absentee ballot rejections

Scott Powers and David Damron write, "A non-matching signature was by far the most common reason for absentee ballot rejection, say Central Florida election officials. The next most common: the failure to sign the ballot at all, which disqualified 672 more ballots in the four counties." "1,400 absentee ballots rejected for bad signatures". See also "Tampa Bay election supervisors rejected nearly 3,000 absentee ballots".

Talking points

"Don’t expect South Florida’s congressional delegation to stray too far from party lines when it comes to dancing on the edge of the fiscal cliff, the end-of-the-year spending cuts and tax increases set to take effect if Congress and the president don’t address them." "South Florida pols sticking to party lines on fiscal cliff". See also "Florida Contingent in Congress's Lame-Duck Session: Not All 'Fiscal Cliff' Focused".

Hiaasen gives Rubio's anti-science political hackery a pass

Disappointing to see inane-Rubio-love from Carl Hiaasen: "Only 11 days after the re-election of Barack Obama, Marco Rubio flew to Iowa to informally begin his quest for the presidency in 2016."

He didn’t come out and admit it, but there’s no other reason for a Florida senator to visit the Hawkeye State in November, or any other time. Iowa holds the first big primary and is therefore treated with ludicrous attentiveness by future candidates.
"Want a sure-fire recipe for blowing another national election?"
1. Keep badmouthing the poor, and bowing to the rich. This is an especially clever strategy while the country is clawing out of a recession.

2. To drive away as many women voters as possible, keep talking about banning abortions and cutting off funds for birth control.

3. Another brilliant campaign topic: Outlawing gay marriage. Keep that one on the front burner if you’re keen on alienating millions of highly motivated voters.

4. Don’t forget to bash big government every chance you get — just pray that a major hurricane doesn’t hit, and the whole country doesn’t get reminded of the importance of FEMA, the National Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers and other tax-gobbling slackers.

5. Finally, keeping pushing for laws that would allow anyone who looks vaguely Hispanic to be pulled over in their cars and frisked for citizenship documents. This is how you keep your “base electorate” fired up, your base being angry, white, old and dwindling by the day.

Marco Rubio can’t avoid Iowa with its freakishly homogenous demographics (91 percent white), but he can certainly avoid coming off like a jabbering loon. He’s already separated himself from the likes of Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann by stating that he actually believes in science[*].

Now we’ll see if the GOP can evolve enough to let him lead the party out of its cave.

"How the GOP can blow another election".

- - - - - - - -

*Mr. Hiaasen has apparently overlooked Rubio's comical flip floppery over the age of the earth: "Sen. Marco Rubio tried Wednesday to clear up his stance on the Earth's age, after getting into some hot water when asked about the topic during a magazine interview."

"Science says it's about four and a half billion years old and my faith teaches that that's not inconsistent," the Florida Republican said at a breakfast sponsored by Politico.

"The theological debate is how do you reconcile what science has definitely established with what you think your faith teaches," Rubio continued. "For me, actually, when it comes to the age of the Earth there is no conflict: I believe that in the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth and I think scientific advances give us insight into when he did it and how he did it."

In an interview with GQ magazine, Rubio gave a rambling answer that side-stepped the specific question on the Earth's age as he discussed that he is "not a scientist" and acknowledged a "dispute among theologians." He ended his response by saying "it's one of the great mysteries."

Rubio got drubbed in the liberal blogosphere, highlighting the sensitive debate over evolution vs. creationism -- the view that God created the world.

So, Marco flip-flopped, saying he now believed that the earth was "at least 4.5 billion years old".

But poor little Marco, desperate to placate whatever fringe group will be controlling GOPer primaries in 2016, hedged, saying

“I just think in America we should have the freedom to teach our children whatever it is we believe. And that means teaching them science. They have to know the science, but also parents have the right to teach them the theology and to reconcile those two things.”
Say what?
What’s remarkable isn’t simply that Rubio still seems to be suggesting that we teach kids [with vouchers] that people played with pet dinosaurs a few thousand years ago, but that Rubio is proposing it even though he knows it’s wrong.
Lost in this mess, is yet another blunder over which the adoring media has largely given Rubio a pass:
[A]t the end of the Politico interview, at about 4 minutes in, Rubio suggests that the age of the earth proves that life begins at conception. Really, Marco? I mean, you’re convinced that the age of the earth is 4.5 billion years, but people should have the right to teach their kids something else. So you’re basically pro-choice on the age of the earth.

But you’re also convinced that the age of the earth proves that life begins at conception. But you don’t think people have the right to disagree about when life begins, which is much tougher question than how old the earth is.

Not to mention, when exactly did science agree that life begins at conception?

"Marco Rubio: Earth is 4.5bn years old, but schools have right to teach 6,000 years".

And Hiaasen is going to give this anti-science political hackery a pass?

Rubio: science has "definitively" established that life begins at conception

Did we get that right?

[A]t the end of the Politico interview, at about 4 minutes in, Rubio suggests that the age of the earth proves that life begins at conception. Really, Marco? . . . you’re also convinced that the age of the earth proves that life begins at conception. But you don’t think people have the right to disagree about when life begins, which is much tougher question than how old the earth is.

Not to mention, when exactly did science agree that life begins at conception?

"Marco Rubio: Earth is 4.5bn years old, but schools have right to teach 6,000 years" ("POLITICO: When does life begin? RUBIO: At conception. And I think science has established that definitively as well.")

"An offhand swipe"

Yesterday, Scott "got in an offhand swipe at the former governor [Charlie Crist] when asked about Crist at long last completing his conversion from Republican to Democrat. 'We’ve had great progress on getting our state back to work,' Scott said while in his Capitol office following the state Cabinet meeting. 'The four years before I became governor the state lost 825,000 jobs, unemployment had gone from 3.5 percent to 11.1 percent. We incurred another $5.2 billion in debt.'" "Rick Scott: How Did Charlie Crist Do On Jobs?". Meanwhile, "Crist to Florida voters: I’ve changed. Really, I have…".

Under Scott, DEP has purchased only 8,289 acres

"DEP purchased an average of 67,380 acres per year from 2002 until 2011. But the department has purchased only 8,289 acres in the two years since Gov. Rick Scott took office." "Cabinet aproves Florida Forever work plan as environmentalists question slow pace of buying".

Foreclosures Affect Budget

"Foreclosures Still Affecting State Budget".

Democrats in a fierce backstage struggle

Steve Bousquet writes that Democrats "are in a fierce backstage struggle to choose a House leader for the 2014-2016 term, and things are getting testy."

Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg and Rep. Mia Jones of Jacksonville are the main combatants. A third Democrat, Rep. Alan Williams of Tallahassee, joined the race last week.

This is unsettling stuff for the 24 freshman House Democrats still learning where the elevators are. They will have to take sides in a leadership fight and don't want to back the wrong horse.

For Democrats, it's a strategically important choice. Having picked up five seats in the House in November for a total of 44, they need a dynamic leader who can raise money, recruit candidates and keep the momentum going heading into 2014.

"Fierce fight may divide Florida House Democrats".

Leon County Dems devise a deal for Tant

"Leon County Democrats have devised a deal designed to help Allison Tant win the top spot in the Florida Democratic Party next month." "Leon Democrats back Tant for state chair".

Mushy editorial

The Miami Herald editorial board: "Current bans are discriminatory in state, federal law". "End the ban on gay marriage".