Saturday, September 07, 2013

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

"Frittering away taxpayer dollars in court defending an ideological agenda"

Fred Grimm: "We who can not abide the notion of an 18-year-old bellying up to the bar for a Budweiser sure as hell want to spend taxpayer money to insure the same knucklehead can buy himself a Beretta."

So Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has committed state resources to that great cause and joined yet another quixotic lawsuit, this one against the United States government. Bondi added Florida to a list of NRA subsidiary states seeking to overturn a 45-year-old federal law that forbids licensed gun dealers from selling handguns to anyone under 21.

It’s another likely loser of a case. Like Rick and Pam’s futile attempt to overturn the Affordable Health Care Act. Over the last few years, the Scott years, we’ve frittered away hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in court defending an ideological agenda. State lawyers and pricey outside law firms have been dispatched to state and federal court to defend, without much success, the privatization of prisons, drug testing of welfare recipients, drug testing of state workers (though not state legislators or the governor) the shifting of pension costs onto state workers, and election laws designed to tamp down turnout among minority voters.

Our lawyers are still fighting, on behalf of the NRA, that mindless violation of the First Amendment known as Docs-versus-Glocks, a state law that severely limits what doctors — even pediatricians and psychiatrists — can discuss with their patients about firearms.

Last week, after the state lawyers were pummeled first in U.S. district court, then the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, the state did, finally, give up defending a blatantly unconstitutional state law that would have barred any company that has done business with Cuba or Syria, or was vaguely associated with a company that has done business with Cuba or Syria, from competing for public contracts in Florida. Of course the law, contrived by Miami’s Sen. René García and Rep. Michael Bileca, was nothing more than a sop to Cuban-American voters. Gov. Rick Scott, even as he signed their bill into law last year, noted that it was legally indefensible.

This little exercise in political theater was not cheap. Aside from the state’s own considerable costs to defend an unconstitutional intrusion into a federal domain, we’re now stuck with a half-million-dollar bill to cover the legal fees.

"This gun case doesn’t look much more promising. The appeal grew out of a lawsuit filed in 2010 by an 18-year-old Lubbock, Texas, kid named James A. D’Cruz. D’Cruz (now presumably old enough to buy all the guns he wants) has since moved down our way and is a senior at Florida International University. (His motto, on Facebook, 'Bad for the Greater Good.') But his lawsuit lives on."
It makes for a tough legal challenge, another unpromising case that states like Texas and Alabama would happily pursue without any help from Pam Bondi and company. Besides, it’s not like her legal team has been dazzling the federal judiciary.

But Rick and Pam will do this for us anyway. They’ll waste taxpayer money, fritter away the state’s legal resources and pursue loser lawsuits because nothing, but nothing, makes us feel safer than 18-year-old kids packing heat.

"Another loser challenge from Florida". See also "Florida won’t appeal ruling against law banning public hiring of firms tied to Cuba".

Ricky the environmentalist

"Lawmakers, Scott consider initial St. Lucie River cleanup efforts". Related: "$37M targeted for helping Florida's springs". Background: "Scott's recent environmental announcements: Election strategy or genuine leadership?".

Brogan's replacement

"The chairman of the board overseeing the state university system didn’t look far to find a temporary replacement for chancellor Frank Brogan, who will step down at end of the month. Jan Ignash, Brogan’s second-in-command, has been tapped as interim chancellor. The full Board of Governors will be asked to approve promoting Ignash, the vice chancellor and chief academic officer, at a meeting Thursday." "Interim Fla. chancellor named".

"He once controlled the Republican Party of Florida"

"He once controlled the Republican Party of Florida, flying on chartered jets, drinking top-shelf bourbon and mingling with the rich and powerful. Now Jim Greer lives at Gulf Forestry Camp, a low-security prison in a remote patch of the Florida Panhandle and a world away from the life he lived as a confidant of former Gov. Charlie Crist. Near the halfway point of his 18-month sentence for grand theft and money laundering, Greer agreed to speak exclusively with the Times/Herald about his old life and his new one." "Jim Greer prison house interview".

Florida Walmart workers arrested

The arrests are shown at the 2:15 minute mark. "Walmart workers get arrested in Orlando". See also "Walmart protesters arrested after blocking entrance".

"Scott continues to cry voter fraud to justify relaunching a voter purge"

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Last week the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced it was walking away from another voter fraud inquiry after concluding it could make no arrests. It's one more reminder that the real problem with voting in the Sunshine State isn't fraud but state leaders more interested in keeping individuals from the polls."

Yet no one in Tallahassee in the Republican Party seems willing to admit this is a phantom problem in Florida, used each election cycle to justify making it harder to register to vote and cast a ballot. During the 2012 election, out of nearly 12 million voters in the state, there were only a handful of cases involving people fraudulently filling out voter registrations or improperly influencing senior citizens filling out their absentee ballot — but few concerns about fraud at the polls themselves.

Yet Gov. Rick Scott continues to cry voter fraud to justify relaunching a voter purge to hunt for noncitizens on voter rolls — just like the Legislature did during the lead-up to the 2012 presidential election. The disastrous elections law changes lawmakers passed reduced early voting and caused hourslong lines on Election Day.

"Phantom voter fraud in Florida".

More FlaDem disarray, firings, infighting

"Just what the Florida Democratic Party needs: more disarray, firings, infighting. Chairwoman Allison Tant fired two high-ranking staff members late Thursday, the same day it was reported she discovered the existence of a fundraising committee that could be controlled only by incoming House Minority Leader Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg. The shake-up is just the latest sign that as the party heads into next year's elections hoping to win back the governor's office and gain a few more seats in the Legislature, leaders are mired in bitter turf wars." "Florida Democrats' infighting escalates with firing of two staffers". See also "Party Staffers Fired Amid Democratic Turmoil".

Baxley falling up?

"Dennis Baxley Turns His Eyes to Running for Senate in 2016".

"Growing corpse count bad for the retirement business"

Scott Maxwell: "With elderly residents dying nearly once a month from abuse and neglect, Florida politicians vowed to crack down. I'm not sure it was the humanity they were worried about as much as the economy. A growing corpse count was bad for the retirement business."

"It's no better than it was before," said Brian Lee, the head of a national nonprofit, Families for Better Care. "We never got the reform. It was a charade."

If Lee sounds indignant, he has good reason. He used to run Florida's elderly watchdog program — for both Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist — until Gov. Rick Scott forced him out in early 2011.

At the time, Lee's army of volunteer ombudsmen — trained citizens who made both surprise and resident-requested visits to facilities — had a 98 percent satisfaction rating from the residents and families they served.

But Lee's dogged approach — particularly his efforts to highlight facilities that put profits over safety — made him unpopular with the industry.

So Scott ousted him — a move that investigators with the U.S. Administration on Aging said was meant "to stop Mr. Lee from carrying out his duties" — and replaced him with a more industry-friendly leader.

"Then things got worse."
Legislators began talking about making it harder for the volunteer watchdogs to do their jobs, and they lowered the minimum number of hours of care that homes must provide.

Our mothers, fathers and grandparents deserve better.

Not because retirement is big business in Florida — but because it's simply the right thing to do.

I'm not sure everyone agrees. Recently, the state's ombudsman program sent out a blistering news release, saying all the negative press about the program was unfair to the hardworking volunteers.

It called the problems "imagined" and the concerns "misrepresentations."

Let's be clear. There's nothing imagined about the recent resignations, the ongoing investigation or the efforts to weaken safeguards.

"Florida's neglected elderly deserve better".

Daily Grayson

"Grayson says 61,000 have signed anti-bombing petition".

Florida federal courts jammed

"Florida residents looking to file a civil suit in federal court might want to get comfortable. Real comfortable." "More budget cuts mean 'crisis' in federal courts, judge says". More from the Tampa Bay Times editors: "Budget cuts impair justice system".

Bondi's takes on another tuff issue

"Attorney General Pam Bondi and her counterparts in Kentucky and Maine have demanded that a California-based clothing company stop selling shirts that include the names of prescription drugs." "Bondi goes after drug names on shirts".

Week in review

"Week in Review for Sept. 6, 2013".

Scott courageously opposes taxes

"Scott to embark on tax cut tour". Related: "Gov. Scott: Use surplus to cut taxes and fees".

State misleads consumers

"State Estimates of Health Premiums Are Faulty, Misleading Consumers" (.pdf).

Parimutuel rules rewrite

"After years of holding together a patchwork of gambling industry regulations, the Florida Division of Parimutuel Wagering announced Friday that it is prepared to rewrite the rules regulating Florida’s multi-billion dollar parimutuel industry." "Agency says gaming laws are ‘unclear,’ calls for rewrite". See also "Pari-mutuel rule changes coming, regulators say".