Friday, December 21, 2012

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

"Scott the most imperiled governor in the nation", risks down-ticket GOP candidates

Jeremy Wallace: "Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s poll numbers are so bad, they are fueling speculation that he could draw a primary opponent in 2014 or be pressured by other Republicans to step aside to avert handing Democrats their best chance of winning the governor’s mansion in nearly 20 years."

"If his numbers don’t improve, at some point, party elders are going to call on him to step aside," said David E. Johnson, an Atlanta-based Republican political consultant.

The last thing Republicans want to see is former Gov. Charlie Crist, now a Democrat rumored to be interested in running, win the governor’s mansion because of a damaged Scott, Johnson said.

It’s not just that Scott, halfway through his four-year term, could help Democrats win the office for the first time since 1994. But there is growing concern of a potential down-ticket effect too, where Republican candidates in tough battles for Congress and the Legislature could be hurt by an unpopular Scott at the top of the ballot, Johnson said.

A stunning 43 percent of Florida voters view Scott unfavorably in new polling and just 31 percent viewed him favorably. Scott is in a rare position political operatives call "upside down" because his unfavorable percentage is much greater than his favorable — an ominous state for any political candidate.

Maybe more damaging for Scott is that a majority of his own party — 53 percent of Republicans — said they want someone else to run in 2014 instead of Scott. . . .

National political experts say Scott is the most imperiled governor in the nation, even though Florida has been dominated by the GOP for the last 18 years.

"Scott is most imperiled governor in nation".

Background: "Florida Voters Dislike Scott And Want A New Gov., Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Crist, Sink Are Best-Known Dem Challengers". See also "Poll: Voters pan most Florida education reform ideas" and "More than half in poll say Gov. Scott doesn't deserve second term".

"Raising property taxes to help charter schools"

The Palm Beach Post editors: "How much do tax-cutting Republicans in Tallahassee love charter schools? So much that they might be willing to raise property taxes to help charter schools. Actually, using the Florida Legislature’s signature underhanded tactic, Tallahassee would pressure local school boards to do the dirty work. But the effect would be the same as if the Legislature did it." "Don’t force counties to subsidize charter schools".

Florida's spats and ascot set confident of economic rebound

"Gov. Rick Scott is hoping the release of new unemployment figures for Florida will be an early Christmas present." "State's November jobless rate coming today". Meanwhile, down at the country club, the spats and ascot set is confident "South Florida poised for rebound".

Another Crist flip flop

"Former Gov. Charlie Crist shifts on guns, supports new restrictions".

Q Poll: Voters dead-set against Florida Republican education recommendations

"Florida voters are dead-set against a series of recommendations made by state officials regarding education, with the largest opposition, 71 - 7 percent, against a plan to set different achievement goals for students of different races, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. "

Registered voters also strongly oppose, 66 - 26 percent, charging lower tuition to college students who major in subjects such as math, science, engineering and computers that lead to higher-paying jobs, and higher tuition for liberal arts majors, considered less employable, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds.

Voters also oppose, 73 - 16 percent, the idea of allowing some public universities dubbed as "preeminent" to charge higher tuition that other state colleges.

Turning to public employee pensions, voters say 53 - 34 percent that it's a good idea to make new state employees participate in a 401-k type retirement plan rather than the defined- benefit plan offered to current state workers.

Opposition to race-based education goals is 73 - 7 percent among white voters, 63 - 11 percent among black voters and 67 - 7 percent among Hispanic voters. Voters with children in public schools oppose the measure 69 - 10 percent.

"Voters, with little difference along political, racial or gender lines, find setting different goals for different races to be distasteful," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

"The data from this survey finds that voters like the idea of treating all students and colleges the same."

Florida voters also oppose 62 - 27 percent charging lower tuition rates for freshmen and sophomores than for juniors and seniors.

They are also quite skeptical of Gov. Rick Scott's challenge to the state's colleges and universities to offer some four-year degrees for a total of $10,000. Only 29 percent think it is very or somewhat likely to occur, while 66 percent say it is not very likely or not likely at all to materialize.

Poll Release - "Florida Voters Oppose School Reforms By Big Margins, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Voters Split On Same-Sex Marriage". See also "Floridians spilt on gay marriage, oppose legalizing pot" and "Florida poll takes pulse on tuition, gay marriage"".

Legislature not required to follow contract requirements

"Despite a series of state laws that impose requirements for contracting, the Florida Legislature is not required to follow the contract requirements or post its salary data online." "Florida legislature writes rules for transparency but won’t follow them".

"Bondi's circuitous route is disconcerting"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "That was a quick U-turn."

Less than a day after the Associated Press reported Attorney General Pam Bondi filed an appeal aimed at forcing a Jacksonville newspaper reporter to testify in a criminal case, Bondi changed direction. She withdrew the appeal to the 1st District Court of Appeal without comment late Wednesday after the Tampa Bay Times and others asked questions. It is the right decision, but Bondi's circuitous route to get there is disconcerting.
"Quick U-turn on press rights".

Crist "is a thing of hustings beauty"

Daniel Ruth writes that, "for all the policy screw-ups and with a 36 percent approval rating Scott, has a bigger problem: Rick Scott. This awkward, tone-deaf former health care executive isn't very adept at being a politician. How does a political consultant make over a client who creeps people out? No small stump challenge."

By contrast, you don't need to be a political scientist to deduce newly minted Democrat and former Gov. Charlie Crist is off and running to reclaim his old job.

Some of Crist's most ardent detractors gleefully accuse him of being an empty-suited, flip-flopping, loyalty-challenged opportunist. Maybe so. But they can't deny Crist is awfully good at it.

A Democrat for only what seems like 20 minutes and benefiting from statewide name recognition honed over two decades of campaigning, Crist has emerged as the leading candidate to take on Scott in 2014.

Retail politics, much like stand-up comedy, when practiced at the highest level should appear to be effortless. A Crist-Scott match-up would look like George Carlin taking on your Uncle Earl, who has been telling the same farmer's daughter joke at Thanksgiving dinner for 20 years.

"Here's a case in point. Crist, channeling his inner FDR, appeared before a U.S. Senate committee to decry Scott's decision to limit early voting as a crass GOP plot to subvert the outcome of the November elections."
The former governor, reacting to the Newtown, Conn., school shootings, also reversed his earlier position opposing gun control, announcing he now favored a ban on assault weapons and extended magazine clips, and tougher background checks.

Crist also now regrets his earlier opposition to gay marriage. If this goes on much longer, Crist will break out the love beads, a tie-dyed T-shirt and introduce Ellen DeGeneres as his running mate.

Go ahead, accuse Crist of pandering to his new constituency. He's got an app for that. "I think life is a learning experience and the older you get the more wisdom you accumulate," he said. "I have an open mind." It is a thing of hustings beauty.

While Crist was coming off as Deepak Chopra, Scott was busily trying to shift blame for Tallahassee's effort to suppress voter turnout by blaming those big meanies in the Florida Legislature for botching everything.

After ducking interview requests for weeks, Scott, in a foundering conversation with CNN's Soledad O'Brien, bemoaned he had no choice but to follow the will of the Legislature, overlooking that he was the governor who signed into law the voting restrictions.

Scott could have vetoed the more restrictive voting regulations. He could have used his executive authority to extend voting hours as lines of citizens grew ever longer. He did neither.

He could have admitted he was wrong. Instead he came off as silly and small.

"Crist schools Scott in art of politics".

NRA fires verbal buckshot into Crist's new stance on gun rights

"As former governor Charlie Crist continues to reload his political views with his newfound Democratic Party affiliation, the Republican Party of Florida and National Rifle Association have fired verbal buckshot into his new stance on gun rights." "NRA, RPOF Open Up on Gun Control Charlie Crist".

Never mind

"Former Florida Sen. Mike Bennett has a new stance on early voting. On the cusp of his new role heading the Manatee County elections office, one of the most outspoken advocates for shortening Florida's early voting period is now calling for more early voting opportunities." "Mike Bennett, saying he got it wrong, reverses course on early voting".

Kravis cutting off its nose . . .

"Kravis Center and top stagehand union leaders met throughout the day Thursday but were unable to resolve a 12-year contract dispute, forcing the cancellation of yet another performance of the Broadway hit, 'Jersey Boys.'"

The cancellation of tonight’s performance of the Tony award-winning musical biography of the 1960s pop group Frank Valli and the Four Seasons is the fourth this week. Since Tuesday, road crews for New York City-based Dodger Properties have refused to cross picket lines organized by local members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. With sets and wardrobes locked in nine semi-tractor-trailers, Kravis officials were forced to cancel Wednesday’s opening-night performance and two shows Thursday. . . .

Losses are clearly mounting. In 2010, Kravis officials said they grossed $4 million on the show, which packed the 2,195-seat main hall for the same number of days as are planned this year. It is estimated the center is losing about $100,000 in ticket sales each time a performance is canceled.

Members of the National Council of Actors’ Equity Association met in New York City and voted to support the local union’s "12-year struggle to achieve a fair and equitable contract with the Kravis Center." . . .

This week’s blow-up is the culmination of a disagreement that began in 2000 when the center ended contract talks, fired six full-time union workers and threw the union out of the hall. The National Labor Relations Board, an administrative law judge and a federal appeals court all agreed the center engaged in unfair labor practices and ordered it to bargain in good faith.

Since the 2008 appeals court ruling, efforts to agree on a contract have failed. In August, the NLRB filed a second complaint, again alleging unfair labor practices. In the latest complaint, it claims the center in 2010 unlawfully declared an impasse in contract talks. It also said the Kravis illegally fired three employees and was using a core crew instead of filling stagehand jobs through the union-hiring hall as they are required to do.

Strike cancels tonight's 'Jersey Boys' performance.

Advice for the latest mini-Jeb

The Sun Sentinel editorial board has "advice for Florida's new education commissioner".

"Crist's other lawyer friend"

Nancy Smith: "Scott Rothstein, Ponzi schemer and Charlie Crist's other lawyer friend, is still making headlines in South Florida, albeit through the people Rothstein involved in his fraud." "Fur's Still Flying in Scott Rothstein Ponzi Scheme Case".

"Phantom" absentee ballot requests

"Florida and Miami-Dade County should tighten rules for voting by mail and make it easier to vote early in order to prevent fraud and plug 'gaping holes' in absentee voting, a Miami-Dade has concluded."

To prove their point, grand jurors made an astounding revelation: A county software vendor discovered that a clandestine, untraceable computer program submitted more than 2,500 fraudulent, "phantom" requests for voters who had not applied for absentee ballots in the August primary.
Among the grand jury recommendations:
• Require that someone at least 18 years old witness an absentee voter fill out and sign his or her ballot.

• Require that people who provide absentee voters with assistance fill out declarations similar to the ones required from people who help voters at the polls.

• Require voters to request a ballot for each election, instead of allowing standing requests.

• Make it a third-degree state felony for anyone to possess more than two ballots, other than those belonging to the voter and an immediate family member, as Miami-Dade County code already does.• Protect information on voters who have requested absentee ballots from political parties, candidates and political committees.

• Bring more ALFs and nursing homes into the county’s “Supervised Voting Program,” which sends elections staff to group homes so residents can vote without having to go to the polls.

• Require user logins and passwords to make online ballot requests and update voter information, to limit fraudulent submissions.

• Contact voters whose ballot envelopes are unsigned, or whose ballot signature does not match the signature on file, once the ballot is received, giving voters until the close of the polls on Election Day to resolve the issue.

"Miami-Dade grand jury: Absentee voting fraud clouds confidence in tight election results". Related: "Accused ballot broker wants county ordinance declared unconstitutional" and "Ballot brokers also target Haitian vote".

Crist claims he "saved the day"

"Crist claimed Florida was heading in the right direction to reform its image from the highly controversial 2000 election. And when problems of long lines were encountered in 2008, it was his directive to extend hours that saved the day." "Charlie Crist: Elections Were Better When I Was in Charge". Meanwhile, "Scott says Florida needs to look at number of early voting days". See also "Rick Scott: America’s Confidence Must be Restored in Florida Voting".

Imminent port strike

"Ports in Jacksonville, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and Miami will shut down on Dec. 30 if a deal isn't struck between dockworkers and shipping companies." "Imminent port strike would hit 4 Florida ports".

Raw sewage

"HB 1263 this year repealed a statewide septic tank inspection requirement passed in 2010 as part of a springs protection bill. This year's legislation required the 19 counties with large springs to do inspections or vote to opt out, which all of them have done." "Given the option, all 19 counties vote not to inspect septic tanks".

Deep thinkers

"Orange leaders OK $3M for more deputies in elementary schools".

Union hating "journalist" needs civics lesson

Orlando Sentinel "journalist" Beth Kassab embarrasses herself with this column today. Kassab begins by courageously penning that "Teachers get dumped on a lot."

She continues with these deep insights: "Politicians heap on regulations and, after robbing teachers of time, look for new ways to measure their classroom performance. Parents ignore their kids' academic needs then demand academic miracles."

Kassab then moves to this striking observation, which is sure to make her boss man* happy:

Union-whining gives the impression teachers don't expect much from themselves.
"Union whining?" Ms. Kassab seems to believe them dastardly teachers unions are giving teachers a bad name by . . . 'ya know . . . all that "union-whining".

It seems Ms. Kassab needs a civics lesson: teachers unions and teachers are not different things. Rather (and this is a very basic principle of Florida law) teachers unions do not drop in from the planet Mars and engage in unsolicited "whining" under the assumed name of Florida's teachers: on the contrary, teachers' unions exist only because teachers vote to unionize; and (this may make Kassab's head explode), teachers unions are run by teachers elected by fellow teachers. Stated differently, and forgive the difficult concept Ms. Kassab: teachers unions are teachers.

Perhaps Kassab missed the column by fellow Sentinel columnist, Scott Maxwell, who once found it necessary to point out that union hating is simply a plank of the Republican Party, and that Republicans (which presumably would include Ms. Kassab) actually find teachers contemptible.

That's right — teachers.

Sure, they'll try to tell you they just hate the unions. But who do you think comprises the union? It's your son's math instructor, your daughter's music teacher — and their soccer coach.

Underpaid educators have become the enemy.

In fact, the overall demonization of the working class is one of corporate America's most successful coups within the GOP — a party that once championed the rights of the common man.

Nowadays, union-bashing isn't simply a plank in the GOP platform; it's the foundation."

"For teacher pay, unions and union-haters should compromise".

Returning to Kassab's column, wherein she claims a desire to learn what it is "like to teach public school in Florida in 2012?" And, to find out, she "spent a day with Betty Westhelle, an algebra teacher at Oviedo High."

Kassab for some reason wants her readers to know that Ms. Westhelle is

not a union member and is a true believer in testing.
Curious that Kassab wanted to avoid the 6,000 voluntary members of the Orange County Teachers Union and instead found someone who enjoys the negotiated wages and benefits and other contract protections paid for by the voluntary dues of her fellow teachers, but not the dues of Ms. Westhelle who has exercised her right to work right to be a free rider.

I wonder if Ms. Westhelle will return to her employer the proceeds of the teachers union lawsuit (funded by the voluntary dues of her fellow teachers) pending before the Florida Supreme Court? "Court hears arguments over 3 percent cut to employee retirement" (The lawsuit was filed by the Florida Education Association after Republican lawmakers passed and Gov. Rick Scott signed a law that imposed a 3 percent levy on teacher salaries to offset the state’s investment into the Florida Retirement System. A lower court judge ordered the state to halt the practice and reimburse workers with interest because the pension changes were an unconstitutional impairment of the contractual rights of employees.)

To top it off, Kassab's column includes the following typographical error in the print version of her column:

I met her before dawn one morning earlier Tthis [sic] month.
I'm sure Kassab will find a union to blame for that too.

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*The last we looked, the Sentinel was owned by the Tribune Company, which in turn was fumbling around in bankruptcy. The Tribune Company is a notorious right-wing cesspool, most recently headed up by this creep. See also "Listen To Sam Zell, And You'll Finally Understand Mitt Romney's Economic Plan" ("never seen a guest get quite so red-in-the-eyes and angry as Zell was this morning, as he railed on the politics of 'class warfare' and 'the politics of envy' and the various benefits for the poor, which in his mind are disincentivizing success.")

You can watch him in action here, at a meeting with Orlando Sentinel employees.