Saturday, December 14, 2013

After reading the hard copy of your hometown newspaper, please consider becoming a site fan on Facebook and following us on Twitter. Please consider giving newspaper subscriptions as gifts and/or buying one or more subscriptions for delivery to your workplace. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Lawmakers can be forced to testify whether they redrew political maps for partisan gain

Aaron Deslatte: "The Florida Supreme Court ruled Friday that state lawmakers can be forced to testify and turn over documents related to whether they intentionally redrew political maps for partisan gain last year."

The fight between voting-rights groups such as the League of Women Voters of Florida and the Legislature stems from 2010 constitutional amendments adopted by voters that specify lawmakers couldn't base their decisions when re-drawing congressional and legislative districts on the desire for political gain.

Specifically, the Fair Districts amendments outlawed drawing new lines with the intent to favor or disfavor incumbents or political parties.

The groups challenging last year's maps say that is exactly what happened -- and have been battling in courts since spring 2012 over whether they can compel lawmakers and their staff to testify under oath and turn over draft versions of the maps that might shed light on their intentions.

The Legislature has argued it was protected from such disclosures by a legislative privilege. Forcing lawmakers and their staffs to testify under oath would have a "chilling effect" on future policy-making, they argued. The lawsuit is slated to go to trial early next year.

Friday, the high court agreed for the first time that such a protection for lawmakers exists -- but it can be outweighed when explicit constitutional mandates such as redistricting are at stake.

"Florida Supreme Court rules lawmakers can be forced to testify in redistricting court fight". See also "Florida Supreme Court rejects Republican leaders’ bid for shield in redistricting cases" and "Florida Supreme Court rules lawmakers must testify in redistricting case".

The lawyers are surely gonna have fun questioning the lawmakers and their staff when this case gets to trial.

Anger and defiance at the FCE

"The Florida Commission on Ethics angrily rejected a negotiated settlement Friday in a dispute with state Rep. Erik Fresen, who defiantly refused to pay a $1,500 fine that dates back more than a decade."

"Ethics Commission rejects Fresen stipulation".

West and Rubio, two peas in a pod

Rubio, and fellow teabagger Allen West, continues to make a fool of himself on the national stage: "Florida Republicans continue to go to bat for U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who is running against U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., in one of the most competitive Senate races next year." "Allen West and Marco Rubio Go to Bat for Tom Cotton Against Mark Pryor".

What do REO, Cheap Trick, Barenaked Ladies and Willie Nelson have in common?

"Yet another band has dropped out of SeaWorld Orlando's Bands, Brews, and BBQ Festival following online pressure prompted by the documentary "Blackfish," which is critical of the park's treatment of killer whales. REO Speedwagon followed Cheap Trick, Barenaked Ladies, Trisha Yearwood, Willie Nelson and Heart in their decision to cancel performances scheduled for February." "REO Speedwagon cancels SeaWorld performance".

Besides, SeaWorld's employees (unlike Disney's employees) haven't shown the courage to unionize.

Let's not forget Porsche and Mitsubishi

"Holocaust survivors and their families fear the train system that would link Miami with Orlando could hire a French company that delivered tens of thousands of Jews to concentration camps during World War II. They do not want the French national railway system SNCF making money in the United States, at least not until they say the company fully opens war time books and offers an apology and reparations." "Holocaust survivors: Don't hire rail company".

While we're at it, let's not forget Porsche and Mitsubishi, among many others.


The Orlando Sentinel found it necessary to publish the following wisdom from a local home-schooled dimwit:

[T]he minimum wage is well-intentioned. But if the minimum wage is kept in place ... it will simply become one more brick forming a path to economic doom in the history of the United States.
"Minimum wage well-intentioned but it upsets market's balance".

Weekly Roundup

"Weekly Roundup: Cause for Celebration for Drivers, Gun Owners and the Rest of Us". See also "Arrivals & Departures for Nov. 13, 2013".

"A handful of gimme and a mouthful of much obliged"

"The Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced Friday it has selected nine projects that will benefit from an expected $6.14 million in federal grant money to assist with the protection and restoration of Florida’s waterbodies." "Nine Florida Water Protection Projects to Benefit from $6.14 Million EPA Grant".

Tax-free Southern states like Florida continue to benefit from Northern taxes. Richard (RJ) Eskow says that "the applicable Southern phrase is 'a handful of gimme and a mouthful of much obliged.'"

96 percent Scott's jobs have failed to materialize

"Gov. Rick Scott has staked his political future on his ability to bring jobs to Florida, but the first comprehensive review of his efforts shows few successes and hundreds of unfulfilled promises. Since taking office in 2011, Scott has pledged $266 million in tax breaks and other incentives in return for 45,258 new jobs. But 96 percent of the jobs have yet to materialize, according to a Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald review of 342 job-creation deals that involve various tax breaks." "We examine Gov. Scott's record on job creation".

Florida Congressional Delegation Largely Backs Budget Deal

"Most of Florida Congressional Delegation Backs Murray-Ryan Budget Deal".

Florida for sale

"SpaceX – the rocket company that last year became the first ever to ship cargo to the International Space Station — now is on the verge of taking over one of the old space shuttle launch complexes at Kennedy Space Center." "NASA picks SpaceX to run KSC launch complex".

Gimme gimme

"Government auditors on Friday accused the Orlando Utilities Commission of misusing funds in the aftermath of Hurricane Frances nine years ago and recommended that federal authorities try to recover $6.1 million from the publicly owned utility."

The allegations brought by investigators at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security cite OUC for not following federal rules when it awarded repair contracts after the 2004 storm.

Specifically, they allege that OUC didn't hold a fair competition for the repair work, nor did it do enough to ensure it wasn't getting ripped off by contractors.

"Audit: OUC misused hurricane-cleanup money".

Muck choking off Indian River Lagoon and killing wildlife in droves

Aaron Deslatte: "Orlando's Andy Gardiner doesn't officially take the job of Senate president until after the 2014 elections, but the local problems demanding his attention are here now. Look to the muck choking off the Indian River Lagoon and killing its wildlife in droves. Two massive algae blooms that began in 2011 have destroyed 47,000 acres of sea grasses — 60 percent of the total there — and killed off hundreds of dolphins, manatees and pelicans."

The brown blooms stretch from Scottsmoor and the Mosquito Lagoon north of Titusville all the way south to Fort Pierce Inlet. They're a crisis made not in Washington or Tallahassee, but the daily dumping of grass cuttings, soil, fertilizer and pesticides from yards, farms and construction sites into the waterways since the 1950s. As Brevard's population grew from just over 50,000 to north of 550,000 in the past six decades, the canals carved for waterfront development have become pipelines for the ingredients coalescing into the sludge now decimating the Indian River.
"Gardiner's first heavy lift is Indian River Lagoon".