Tuesday, December 04, 2012

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

Democrats own the hottest issue in the state

Steve Bousquet: "Democrats delivered Florida to President Barack Obama for a second time last month and loosened Republicans' grip on power in the state Capitol."

But they may have won something more meaningful in the 2012 election than a few more seats in the Legislature.

As they gathered Monday in a caucus room in Tallahassee, Democrats had one thing on their minds: how to maintain ownership of the hottest issue in the state now. That is, protecting the right to vote and holding Republicans accountable for long lines, delayed ballot counts and an expansion of provisional ballots.

The election may be over, but the fight over how the election was managed has only just begun.

"Democrats believe they now own the voting issue and that public opinion is firmly on their side."
The intense emotion surrounding problems at the polls in Florida — and the fact that the whole country saw it — gives it a momentum that's not going away. . . .

The only ones who can take the issue away from Democrats are Republicans, and the only way they can do that is to outdo Democrats in pushing reforms. Not likely.

The first clues of what's to come will emerge today. Senate and House elections committees will begin a public discussion of what changes should be made to the system.

Senate President Don Gaetz framed the issue in a speech two weeks ago. "Floridians should never again have to stand in line for six and seven hours to vote," Gaetz said. "This isn't a Third World country."

The Senate elections panel, chaired by Republican Jack Latvala of Clearwater, will hear from Gov. Rick Scott's top elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, a member of that panel, has filed a bill to return to 14 days of early voting. As the lines lengthened before Election Day, she demanded and was denied a meeting with Scott to seek more early voting days.

The House committee is led by Republican Rep. Jim Boyd of Bradenton, and also will hear from Detzner, along with county election supervisors, who have demanded more leeway in selecting early voting sites.

"Election not over for Democrats". Related: "Lawmakers to hear from Detzner on voting problems".

Even Sean Hannity?

The Sun Sentinel editors: "Like their former standard-bearer [George W. Bush], Republicans in Congress — starting with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio — should lead a new national effort to fix immigration. Savvy leaders recognize the party's hard-line opposition to reform has cost it dearly with Hispanics, a critical and growing voting bloc that helped propel President Obama and other Democrats to victory in this year's election. Even conservative commentator Sean Hannity, a political pragmatist [opportunist], has changed his stance on 'amnesty' and says it's time to find a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants." "Fix the mess with immigration". The Palm Beach Post editors: "Republicans crossing over on immigration reform?"

Empty suits whine about "economic freedom"

"The conservative Canadian think tank Fraser Institute caused a stir last Wednesday when it ranked six Canadian provinces freer than the state of Florida. But a researcher at Florida State University takes issue with some of those findings. The study was published in the 2012 edition of Fraser's annual "Economic Freedom of North America" report." "Florida Less Free than Canada? FSU Economist Says, Not So Fast".

$500,000 for an agency name-change ... that's the ticket

Here's runnin' gub'ment like a bidness: "State labor officials want to unify Florida's regional jobs agencies under a single brand to reduce confusion and raise the profile of the federally funded system. It will pay IDEAS, an Orlando-based marketing firm, almost $500,000 to lead the effort, which is expected to extend into the middle of next year." "State wants local jobs agencies under one brand".

"Votes were suppressed. That’s a fact"

On the issue of whether the Florida Republican Party urged the passage of legislation to suppress Democratic votes, Fred Grimm urges his readers to consider "objective reality. Votes were suppressed. That’s a fact."

The wait at clogged-up early voting sites went on for hours. Same thing on Election Day. Until would-be voters simply gave up and went home.

Voter turnout for the 2012 general election fell to 71.13 percent in Florida, down from 75 percent in 2008. House Bill 1355, the election bill passed by the Republican supermajority last year, that, among other mischief, reduced early voting days from 14 to eight, had done its work.

Jim Greer [and Charlie Crist] might have credibility issues, but the numbers don’t lie.

"Vote suppression in Florida? The numbers don’t lie".

The congresswoman from Weston

"The congresswoman from Weston will stay on as head of the Democratic National Committee." "President Obama keeps Debbie Wasserman Schultz as Democratic Party chair". See also "Outspoken Wasserman Schultz to Remain Voice of Democrats".

Dead bears

"Fla wildlife officials euthanize mother black bear".

Teabaggers, country clubbers fight it out in Hillsborough

"Republicans will pick a new Hillsborough County party chairman next week, hoping to rejuvenate a party known as one of the state's largest and most active, but which is still plagued by divisiveness."

[Party] factionalism remains, including the persistent division between conservatives in eastern Hillsborough and comparatively moderate Republicans in Tampa. The east Hillsborough group has been dominant in the party for several years.
"Lee, Hart top candidates to lead Hillsborough GOP".

"Even by the sometimes sordid standards of Miami politics"

"A Miami city commissioner who successfully fought a pair of political corruption charges delivered a punch to the prosecutor and a longtime political foe, lodging dramatic accusations against two heavyweights in Miami’s political establishment."

Miami City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones launched a legal offensive Monday against Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle and Mayor Tomás Regalado, claiming they plotted to destroy her political career and ruin her reputation.

In a federal lawsuit, Spence-Jones’ lawyers accuse Fernández Rundle, lead prosecutor Richard Scruggs and a state attorney’s investigator of fabricating evidence and misleading key witnesses — including developer Armando Codina [who claimed he had been solcited for a bribe by the Democratic city commissioner*] and former County Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler — to back up their ultimately unsuccessful corruption cases.

Spence-Jones, 45, was acquitted in one case. The charges were dropped in the second prosecution.

The suit claims that Fernández Rundle’s goal amounted to a “shocking, nefarious scheme” to remove Spence-Jones from the city commission from 2009-11 as a favor for the state attorney’s ally, Regalado, so that Spence-Jones, his nemesis, could be replaced by another politician to represent Miami’s black community in District 5.

“Even by the sometimes sordid standards of Miami politics, the Rundle-Regalado conspiracy stands out for its brazenness,” the 106-page complaint says. “As a result of defendants’ prosecution-laden brand of power politics, Spence-Jones’ life was virtually destroyed. She lost her liberty, her job, her reputation.”

"Miami Commissioner Spence-Jones sues Fernández Rundle, Mayor Regalado". See also "Miami commissioner sues mayor, prosecutor".

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*You remember Mr. Armando Codina, "a Coral Gables Cuban-American real estate investor who was one of George Bush's earliest supporters. He was so tight with the president that he gave Jeb Bush more than his first job in Florida. Codina put Bush's name on the company and gave him 40 percent of its profits. . . . He also made Bush this proposition: Bush, with no investment, would get 40 percent of the real estate company's profits plus chances to invest in other ventures. A great deal for Bush. Not so bad for Codina, either. He got the clout that comes with a famous partner by changing the firm's name to Codina Bush Group. . . . Bush, who later became president of the firm, had no experience in real estate." "Make The Money and Run".

When Florida falls off the "fiscal cliff"

"For Florida, falling off the "fiscal cliff" would wipe out more than 130,000 jobs, stifle consumer spending and raise taxes for just about everyone who pays them." "Fiscal cliff poses hazards for Florida".

"Freedom" and with the dirty water that goes with it

Nancy Smith wants her "freedom" along with the dirty water that goes with it, instead of the "EPA's oppressively costly, untested criteria for fixing the pollution of Florida waters included agriculture, employers, local government and utilities." "Surprise! EPA Will Impose Nutrient Criteria on Remaining Florida Waterways".

Scott still groveling before Grover

The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Like several prominent Republicans in Washington, a growing number of Florida's GOP leaders in Tallahassee are backing away from Grover Norquist's Taxpayer Protection Pledge. And for good reason. For too long, this pledge to oppose any new tax or tax hike — no matter what — has kept political leaders from thinking for themselves and doing what's best for the state and nation."

And don't think for a minute that the pledge has kept more money in your pocket. In Florida, politicians have extracted it in more stealthy ways, like raising highway tolls, imposing fees at public parks and beaches, or jacking up tuition and fees at public colleges and universities.

But while 28 Florida lawmakers are still groveling before Grover, it's good to see fewer statewide leaders signing away their independence. Gov. Rick Scott is the only current member of Florida's Cabinet who has signed the pledge.

"Lawmakers need to put the people over pledges".

Rubio aligns himself with wingnut conspiracy theorists

"Sen. Marco Rubio plans to vote against ratifying a U.N. disabilities treaty that has come under opposition from conservatives, his office tells the Buzz. A vote could come today. The treaty calls for equal rights for disabled people and is modeled after the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. It is widely supported by Democrats and some Republicans. But conservatives -- most vocally Rick Santorum -- say it could lead to international standards being imposed on the U.S. There's also a worry, previously expressed by Rubio, that it could lead to abortions. Supporters say the objections are bogus because the treaty would not change any U.S. law., and accuse opponents of peddling conspiracy theories." "Rubio to vote against U.N. disabilities treaty".

Booted out of Indiana, Jeb-acolyte noses around Florida

"Indiana’s state school superintendent is interested in being the new Florida state education commissioner. Tony Bennett is among the nearly 50 people who have applied for the position. The state Board of Education is scheduled to interview a panel of finalists on Dec. 11 and choose a commissioner the next day. Bennett is an ally of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; he spoke last week at Bush’s annual education summit in Washington, D.C. Last month, Bennett lost a re-election bid to a four-year term." "Former supervisor of Indiana's schools applies for Florida post".

The Week Ahead

"The Week Ahead for Dec. 3 to Dec. 7".

Teabaggers run wild in Legislature

"Dozens of tea party activists and conservative religious leaders flooded a state Senate meeting today on the Affordable Care Act, calling the law a gross overreach by the federal government and begging lawmakers not to implement it. . . . A rowdy conservative crowd commandeered a nearly hour-long public comment section, stressing that the Constitution does not grant the federal government the authority to make health care decisions, despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld most of the health care law."

No racism here:

Democratic Senate Minority leader Chris Smith was booed when he reminded the crowd that the federal government stepped in to uphold justice in civil rights cases.
"'Obamacare' foes vent anger to Florida Senate committee". See also "Opponents still raw about federal health care plan".

"The conservative activists who took to the podium during the meeting’s second half had another idea in mind: nullification."

"Nullification is the states standing up and saying the federal government is not our master: we are," an impassioned KrisAnne Hall[*], attorney and conservative activist, told the senators, as she concluded a speech that lasted nearly ten minutes. “The states and the people are the masters of the Constitution. We do not have to, nor will we, comply with federal dictates not enumerated in the Constitution.”
"Obamacare: Tea Partiers Say, Nullify It; Democratic Senator Says, Who Cares if It's Constitutional?".

We understand that the Florida GOP must play to its base, but God only knows why this person is testifying before the Legislature as some sort of expert.

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*The "impassioned" person referred to in the story is a Teabagger (here's an example of her expertise on "nullification") who has most recently been freaking out over "King Barry" the "tyrant" putting "the UN in charge of your child!".