Sunday, August 04, 2013

After reading the hard copy of your hometown newspaper, please consider becoming a site fan on Facebook and following us on Twitter. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

"Governor to launch new purge of Florida voter rolls"

"Gov. Rick Scott will soon launch a new hunt for noncitizens on Florida’s voter roll, a move that’s sure to provoke new cries of a voter 'purge' as Scott ramps up his own re-election effort."

Similar searches a year ago were rife with errors, found few ineligible voters and led to lawsuits by advocacy groups who said it disproportionately targeted Hispanics, Haitians and other minority groups. Those searches were handled clumsily and angered county election supervisors, who lost confidence in the state’s list of names.
" Over time, the state’s initial list of suspected non-U.S. citizens shrank from 182,000 to 2,600 to 198 before election supervisors suspended their searches as the presidential election drew near."
If the next list is anything like the last one, its burden will fall most heavily on [Democratic] urban counties with large Hispanic populations, notably Miami-Dade.
"Governor to launch new purge of Florida voter rolls".

Another fine Jebacy biting the dust?

"The national push to grade schools has slammed into an unexpected roadblock, causing even supporters to question the validity of the widely celebrated A-F system that Florida started 14 years ago." "Tony Bennett scandal sparks new discussion on validity of school grading".

Scott panders to his base

We like golf as much as the next guy here at FLA Politics, but this was too good to pass up: "Gov. Rick Scott helps Golf Channel celebrate 88 new jobs".

Flabaggers: Rubio a "back-stabber," a "liar" and a "flip-flopper"

"This wasn't the revolution the tea party had in mind."

Four years ago, the movement and its potent mix of anger and populism persuaded thousands of costumed and sign-waving conservatives to protest the ballooning deficit and President Obama's health care law. It swept a crop of no-compromise lawmakers into Congress and governor's offices and transformed political up-and-comers, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, into household names.
"But as many tea party stars seek re-election next year and Rubio considers a 2016 presidential run, conservative activists are finding themselves at a crossroads. Many of their standard-bearers have embraced more moderate positions on bedrock issues such as immigration and health care, broadening their appeal in swing states but dampening grass-roots passion."

The baggers are even outraged at Rick Scott. After all,

Scott, a former health care company executive who won office by attacking the health law and calling for deep cuts to state spending, has embraced the health law and signed one of the largest budgets in state history, complete with pay raises for teachers. . . .

One sweltering July day, a half-dozen tea party protesters gathered under a tree in front of Rubio's Miami office, seeking shade as they denounced his support for an immigration overhaul. But the protest soon turned into more of a support group, with the four men and two women grousing to each other about how Rubio had turned into a "back-stabber," a "liar" and a "flip-flopper."

"Tea party plans to abandon GOP stars". Meanwhile, "Democrats urge Scott to reconsider veto of bill that helps undocumented immigrants get driver licenses".

"And that doesn't include his wife's money"

"'I will have $25 million in the bank by the end of the year and will use it in early 2014 to define my opponent,' Gov. Rick Scott declared last week."

Nobody doubts Scott will have a vast campaign account for his re-election, but $25 million on hand by January?

Unless he's planning to dig into his own $84 million net worth (and that doesn't include his wife's money), the governor will have to spend A LOT of time raising money over the next five months.

"Gov. Rick Scott's $25M by January campaign target might be a stretch".

Raw political courage

"Gov. Scott to give Air Force general 'Great Floridian' award in Orlando".

"Public money going to private contractors with very snuggly ties to state officials"

Fred Grimm: "Tony Bennett slunk away from his job as Florida commissioner of education, leaving us with an ever-deepening distrust of a school-reform movement dominated by for-profit education conglomerates and big-money political donors."

He was undone by a grade-fixing scandal of his own making back when he was Indiana superintendent of education (until unhappy voters tossed him out of office in November). He lost his job in Florida because, in his previous incarnation, he manipulated the statewide grading formula to fabricate an A rating for a K-10 charter school in which two-thirds of the high school classes flunked algebra, while 30 percent failed English.

But there's more to the story:
But Florida citizens had another reason to doubt Bennett’s objectivity when it comes to charter schools. The Indianapolis Star reported last week that his wife, Tina Bennett, was hired in June by Fort Lauderdale-based Charter Schools USA. It was another of those sweet, moneyed coincidences in Bennett public service. In 2011, he had awarded this very same company nice fat contracts to take over two failing high schools and a middle school in Indianapolis. (One of those schools, T.C. Howe High School, happened to be one of those two schools that had requested but were refused the same kind of waiver granted Christel House last September. Such a small world.) And Charter Schools USA has become one of the big players in the Florida rush to charters.
And more:
Similar questions have loomed over other instances in Florida’s fire sale of state-owned assets. The move to privatize state prisons has been so larded with corporate political donations and intense lobbying that no one can quite say whether the real goal is to bring market efficiencies to a big clunky bureaucracy or simply to deliver public money to influential corporate entities.

On Saturday, the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting reported that Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford has failed to disclose that he was a former director of a Texas contractor that was paid $826,676 from Citizens, Florida’s state-run catastrophic insurance company. Weatherford’s wife, apparently, has replaced him on the company board of directors.

Will Weatherford, technically, may not have had a legal obligation to report the apparent conflict of interest. But this was yet another murky instance of public money going to private contractors with very snuggly ties to state officials.

"Tony and Tina Bennett’s school for conflicts". More: "Florida House Speaker Connected to Citizens Contractor".

Dream Defenders mark 18th day of protest

"The Dream Defenders marked their 18th day of protest at the Capitol by bringing together faith leaders for a 'Can We Pray Together' rally." "Capitol protesters hold prayer rally".

"Graham is expected to amass an impressive war chest"

"Political newbie Gwen Graham is expected to amass an impressive war chest in her bid for a north Florida House seat, thanks in part to her father, former Democratic senator Bob Graham." "Heiresses apparent: Daughters take their turn for the political dynasty".