Monday, January 21, 2013

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

Bondi has succeeded in suppressing the black vote

The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board:  "The highly restrictive rules limiting felons' voting in Florida that were put in place two years ago at the urging of Attorney General Pam Bondi are having their predictable effect."
Since then, fewer than 400 people out of hundreds of thousands have gotten back their right to vote. It's no wonder the issue was featured last week among the concerns Florida's black lawmakers brought to the governor. Florida's Clemency Board, made up of Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet, have returned Florida to a process that suppresses black voting strength under the guise of criminal justice. The policy should be reversed and automatic civil rights restoration adopted.
Bondi and fellow Teabagger, Rick Scott
insist the tightening of the rules is about people proving they have reformed before regaining their rights, and not about keeping a disproportionate number of African-Americans who tend to vote Democratic from the voting booth. But the numbers tell the real story.
"Florida's unfair treatment of felons".

Angry GOPers

"With former Rep. Allen West focused on his new online TV gig and ruling out a 2014 rematch against U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, there’s no slam-dunk early favorite candidate for the GOP in a swing district that national Republicans say will be a priority next year."
Longtime state Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, who narrowly lost a 2008 GOP congressional primary to eventual U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, voiced cautious interest in the District 18 race. . . .

Some Republicans point to up-and-coming St. Lucie County Commissioner Tod Mowery as a potential congressional candidate, noting his ability to win as a Republican in a Democrat-dominated county that is home to 37 percent of District 18 voters. . . .

Some Republicans point to up-and-coming St. Lucie County Commissioner Tod Mowery as a potential congressional candidate, noting his ability to win as a Republican in a Democrat-dominated county that is home to 37 percent of District 18 voters.
"With West forgoing rematch, GOP has no clear early favorite to oppose Patrick Murphy in 2014".

"Scott is on pace to appoint fewer African-Americans to judgeships . . ."

"Gov. Rick Scott is on pace to appoint fewer African-Americans to judgeships in Florida than either of his two predecessors, Charlie Crist and Jeb Bush."
In his two years as governor, Scott has appointed 91 judges. Six are black, including the reappointments of three judges who handle cases involving benefits to injured workers.

Scott has appointed two African-Americans to the circuit court bench, both in Miami-Dade County, and has appointed a black county judge in Jacksonville.

In a state as diverse as Florida, racial and ethnic diversity in the court system has been debated for decades, and it erupted anew last week in the state Capitol.

At a roundtable meeting with black legislators, Scott defended his appointments in the face of criticism that his record is "appalling."
"Scott appointed fewer black judges".

Meanwhile, "Gov. Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott will walk in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade in downtown Jacksonville."

"Florida to re-examine its fear of gambling"

Jim Turner: "If there is any indication that the gambling barbarians remain at the gates of Florida, one has to look no further than the Senate Gaming Committee meeting on Monday."

When Malaysian casino giant Genting and others were watching the doomed destination-gaming bill they backed go before committees, well-tailored lobbying suits created standing room only crowds during meetings in both the House and Senate.
With the Senate Gaming Committee embarking on what Chairman Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, said could be a comprehensive two-year look at gaming in Florida, the scene in the Senate Building’s first-floor committee room was once again standing-room-only with proponents and opponents of any gambling expansion.
First up, Richter wants a House- and Senate-backed study that looks into the economic impact on the state and each other of the Florida Seminole Tribe compact, the Florida lottery, the 30 pari-mutuel locations that include horse racing, harness racing, quarter horse racing, greyhound racing, jai alai, poker and slot machines. Poker is available at 25 locations, while slot machines are available in seven locations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
"Gambling Issue Continues to Hover in Legislature".

Nancy Smith thinks it is "time for Florida to re-examine its fear of gambling and put it where it can do the state some good -- in smart, high-class state-of-the-art casinos."  "Why Not Casinos?".

Rubio's immigration plan?  Mimic the Obama plan

The Palm Beach Post editorial board compares Rubio's immigration plan to the ideas Obama has had on the table for years and, lo and behold, "the two plans do not appear, in their broad strokes, very different."
Both would expand guest-worker programs, require employers to verify workers’ legal status electronically and create more opportunities for highly skilled immigrants to remain after studying at American universities. Most significantly, Mr. Obama and Sen. Rubio would allow illegal immigrants already in the U.S. the chance to become legal residents and, eventually, citizens.

That last part – the so-called “amnesty” question – has been the biggest sticking point, with many Republicans opposed. It is not surprising that the president’s plan creates a path to citizenship. (The New York Times reports that it would require paying fines and back taxes and satisfying other requirements). More significant is that Sen. Rubio’s does, too.

Like the president, Sen. Rubio has laid out no formal plan yet. But in an interview with The Wall Street Journal this month, he said he supports the legal-residency-to-citizenship path with elements similar to the president’s: a criminal background check, verification that the person has lived in the U.S. for several years, payment of back taxes and mastery of basic English. His plan would require illegal immigrants to wait for a substantial period of time — long enough, he said, “to ensure that it’s not easier to do it this way than it would be the legal way.” Sen. Rubio also suggested that illegal immigrants who were brought as children should have a quicker path to citizenship, echoing supporters of the failed DREAM Act.
"Let the politics align on immigration reform".

The best he could do?  Really?

"It's not cheap, but the fastest way to score prime tickets for inauguration weekend is to raise money — lots of money — for the winning presidential candidate.  Just ask John Morgan, the Central Florida attorney and fundraiser extraordinaire for President Barack Obama."  "Florida fundraisers land VIP seats for inauguration".

"Cool reception"

"A proposal that could help cities and counties pay down their massive liabilities for police and fire pensions is getting a cool reception from both the unions and from local governments.  The legislation would give cities more flexibility in how they use insurance tax revenue to fund pensions for police and firefighters."  "Pension proposal gets cool reception".

Get over it; you lost

"Low-income Floridians, small businesses and mega health care companies are all waiting on Tallahassee lawmakers to decide how and when the state will implement the Obama administration's signature accomplishment – the Affordable Care Act."
House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Matt Hudson, R-Naples, chastised the Obama administration for a lack of flexibility, for its refusal to allow the state to consider a partial expansion.
"Fla. lawmakers face big questions in health care debate".

Almost true

Marco "Rubio told the Wall Street Journal he didn't "'think that in the 21st century we can continue to have an immigration system where only 6.5 percent of people who come here, come here based on labor and skill. We have to move toward merit and skill-based immigration.'"
In evaluating Rubio's statement, his larger point is correct: Immigration data shows that most people come here for family reasons. But the number of legal immigrants who come based on employment varies depending on the type of visa and category of employment. One valid example is to look at legal permanent residents — 13.1 percent were employment-based preferences in 2011, and professionals with advanced degrees accounted for 6.3 percent.

The data isn't as precise as Rubio made it sound, but his basic premise is correct, and some numbers do support his claim. We rate this statement Mostly True.
"PolitiFact Florida: Rubio correct that most immigration is not connected to labor or skills".

Time to challenge tax dollars already funding religion

Stephen L. Goldstein asserts that in "November 2012, Florida voters showed laudable wisdom by voting down proposed state Constitutional Amendment 8, which would have allowed tax dollars to be used for any religious purpose. Now, the state needs to challenge tax dollars already funding religion—like faith-based prisons."  "Religion poisons political discussions"

"Obama-paranoia at Miami gun show"

Marc Caputo writes that the "word 'Obama' was frequently mumbled, muttered, hissed, cursed at Saturday’s Southern Classic Gun and Knife Show."

Read more here:
A clerk said they quickly sold 40 AR-15s for as much as $2,800 shortly after opening. Some people had to wait two hours until their paperwork cleared before taking their guns home.

At a nearby booth, one seller soon ran out of hundreds of “bump-fire” trigger kits that, as a video showed, convert a semi-automatic weapon into a full machine gun that can fire 800 rounds a minute.

Read more here:
"High prices, Obama-paranoia at Miami gun show".