Friday, January 04, 2013

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

Pitchforks at the gate

"U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, and Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, explained their fiscal-cliff votes to support the Senate compromise as a means to avert the threat of 'crippling taxes on the majority of Americans.' Both also expressed hope that spending cuts would be addressed quickly after the next Congress is sworn in." "Ros-Lehtinen, Buchanan Say Their Fiscal Cliff Votes Blocked Crippling Taxes".

Entrepreneurs in action

"Florida missed out on millions in federal funds by cutting the budget for its Medicaid fraud unit and prosecution referrals and arrest warrants are down, a report released Thursday shows. Twenty-three positions in the fraud unit have gone unfilled because of budget shortfalls, according to a report issued by the Florida Attorney General’s Office and the Agency for Health Care Administration." "Florida’s Medicaid fraud fighting cuts cost state millions in matching money, report says".

"No political will to follow enlightened path of abolition"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board writes that, "as other states have become disenchanted with the ultimate punishment in light of so many wrongful convictions, Florida has moved in the opposite direction. "

Last year was the second straight that this state ranked first in the nation in new death sentences. There is no political will to follow the enlightened path of abolition, but Florida should analyze why it's such an outlier. One likely reason is that the state doesn't require a unanimous jury recommendation for a death sentence, and that should be corrected.

Florida sentenced 22 people to death last year. Compare that to the more populous states of California, which sentenced 14 inmates, and Texas, the state with the highest number of executions, which put only nine new inmates on death row last year, according to a report by the Death Penalty Information Center. The count raises Florida's death row to 408 inmates.

But even as the state adds to death row, it is finding problems with the legal process that led to those convictions and sentences. Florida also leads the nation in the number of inmates who have had their death sentences reversed. Out of 142 such cases, Florida accounts for 24 exonerations, acquittals or charges subsequently dropped, according to the center. Some of these were people shown to be innocent of the crime. Frank Lee Smith, for instance, was exonerated posthumously. The real perpetrator was identified after Smith died from cancer after he spent the last 14 years of his life on death row.

Florida is long overdue for a comprehensive look at its death penalty system — an endeavor that any branch of government could launch. It is time to better understand why the state imposes the penalty disproportionately and ends up exonerating so many. Basic justice demands it.

"Florida's flawed death penalty".

The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Decision to seek death penalty deserves more scrutiny".

"Our existing system doesn't attract normal people"

Regarding Florida's Legislators, Scott Maxwell asks "what do Floridians get for their basement-level investment? Basement-level service."

Why is that? Partly because our existing system doesn't attract normal people.

Legislators must leave home for months at a time, commute to Tallahassee, spend more time with lobbyists than their family members and, in many cases, give up their jobs, unless they can take much of the year off.

Many people would find root canals more appealing.

So the current system — with its big sacrifices and low wages — attracts three kinds of people:

1. True public servants willing to sacrifice their lives and personal wealth for the greater good.

2. The independently wealthy, for whom money is no issue.

3. Schemers who view the Legislature as a short-term sacrifice that leads to a long-term payday — as lobbyists or on the payroll of some business that they helped while in office."Legislators drive you crazy? Pay them more!".

He's back . . .

"Hours after officially rejoining Congress Thursday, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, vowed to continue his spirited -- and oftentimes confrontational -- fight for progressive causes that defined his first tour in the House." "Grayson is back, ready to 'really make a difference'".

Yee haw!

"Numbers surge after President Obama’s re-election and the Sandy Hook mass shootings." "Requests for gun permits spikes in Florida".

Longshoremen dispute gives glimpse of economic future

Harold Meyerson: "In longshoremen dispute, a glimpse of America’s economic future?"


"Frankel celebrates opening day of Congress".

About that long overdue immigration solution, Mr. Rubio

"Florida farmworkers and immigrant rights activists marched to Sen. Marco Rubio's office in Orlando Thursday to urge the passage of comprehensive immigration reform and the halting of deportations that have split their families apart."

A group of about 60 men, women and children from South and Central Florida gathered on the steps of Orlando City Hall to kick off a 1,000-mile protest caravan that will stop in rural and urban farmworker communities on the East Coast and culminate Jan. 20 when it arrives in Washington, D.C. for the inauguration.

Activist Daniel Barajas, with the Forward With Your Promise caravan, said the impromptu meeting Thursday with Rubio's State Director Todd Reid was an "open and welcoming discussion." But no promises were made about how Rubio would move on immigration issues in the new Congressional session, he said.

"Farmworkers, activists meet with Sen. Rubio's staff about immigration reform". Related: "Obama Changes Policy for Immigrants With Family in the United States".

5 things to know

"5 things to know in Florida for Jan. 4".