Monday, December 23, 2013

Consider giving a newspaper subscription as a gift 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.

Scott’s own poll has him losing

Marc Caputo: "Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign team thought it had something to brag about last week. Scott is still losing his reelection bid — but by less than some expected."

That’s according to the campaign’s own survey, which shows Scott loses to former Gov. Charlie Crist by 4 percentage points and trails Sen. Bill Nelson by only 2 points. To Scott’s Washington advisers, who trumpeted the poll last week, it was a sign of progress.

Whoo-hoo! We’re still No. 2!

"Bragging about it, however, made little sense to Scott’s Florida supporters."
“I don’t understand this,” said one top Republican, echoing a handful of others. “Why are we telling people we’re losing?”

Here’s why: Scott’s team is playing the expectations game. The message: Scott is narrowing the gap with Crist.

And it’s true. He is and will continue to do so.

Scott has already started spending money on negative ads, bashing Crist a year before the election. It will have an effect. And beyond that, if past major Florida races are any indication, the winner will prevail by just a point, maybe two. The gap will narrow.

"That’s one way Scott hopes to win the expectations game — by changing expectations and then claiming victory."
But right now, Scott’s own poll shows voters aren’t expecting to give him a second term.
"Rick Scott losing expectations game to Crist".

People leaving the labor force contribute to lower unemployment

"Florida’s unemployment rate for November was 6.4 percent, down from 6.7 percent in October and lower than the national rate of 7 percent. The Florida number is the lowest jobless rate since July 2008. Gov. Rick Scott attributes the drop to his policies. . . . State economists, however, have said people leaving the labor force or delaying their search for a job have also contributed to the lower rate." "State's unemployment rate drops to 6.4 percent".

"The Fights Before Christmas"

Weekly Roundup: The Fights Before Christmas. See also "Week in Review for Dec. 20, 2013".

"Crist is still formidable"

A "survey, conducted by Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s pollster, indicates Charlie Crist is still formidable in a general election and leads the incumbent by 4 percentage points among likely voters." "Poll: Charlie Crist would wallop Sen. Bill Nelson in gubernatorial primary".

"10 Florida Bills You May Not Hear About"

"10 Florida Bills You May Not Hear About -- Except Here".

GOPers destroy documents

"The long-running legal fight over redistricting in Florida took another turn when lawyers for Republican lawmakers said some documents were destroyed during the redistricting process." "Legislators destroyed documents during redistricting".

Grubbing for wingnuts

The Miami Herald editors are disappointed with Rubio's "rightward shift".


The "Tribune endorses David Jolly for District 13 GOP primary".

"It took a single person"

"Most Miami-Dade County workers may have thought two weeks ago that the odds were good they would soon be taking more money home in their paychecks."

It took a single person to change that."

The County Commission came one vote shy of overturning Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s decision to veto restoring union workers’ pay.

As a result, most county and Jackson Health System employees will continue to contribute 5 percent of their base pay toward group healthcare costs for now, instead of getting that money back as of Jan. 1.

But the impasse with labor unions is not over yet.

Gimenez’s administration must go back to brainstorming how to resolve the contract dispute with 11 bargaining units. Commissioners urged the mayor to find a way to give workers at least some relief, perhaps by shrinking the size of the healthcare contribution.

"Commission fails to override Miami-Dade mayor’s veto on workers’ pay by single vote".

"Only two constitutional amendments"

"In 2012, there were 11 statewide ballot questions, perplexing many voters who didn’t understand all the proposed changes to the state’s constitution. What a difference two years make." "Only two constitutional amendments likely on 2014 ballot".

Charter games

"Athenian Academy of Pasco, which lost its high-performing charter school status this year because of low grades from the state, now has a new three-year contract with the Pasco school district. The agreement replaces a 15-year contract that the New Port Richey school held when its academic performance earned it the high-performing designation." "Pasco school lost charter because of grades".

Another "no"

"Will Weatherford for Lieutenant Governor? No".

Zimmerman challengers

"Republicans are feeling good about challenger Chris Sprowls' chances of picking up a Florida House seat by taking down freshman Democrat Carl Zimmerman, but a new GOP hopeful could complicate things in attorney Debbie Ann Faulkner." "GOP Primary Battle to Take on Carl Zimmerman is One to Watch in 2014".

Florida's Legislators "can't hide anymore"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Florida voters made clear three years ago that they want political districts drawn more fairly. "

But beyond trusting that lawmakers would actually comply, voters had no way to ascertain if that was done. Until now. A Florida Supreme Court ruling has made clear that the Legislature is not above being held to account in court when it comes to how it draws redistricting maps. That's good for democracy.

In a representative democracy, nothing is more basic than the once-a-decade redistricting process when legislative bodies, based on Census numbers, decide political boundaries. How those lines are drawn can determine who can win office or which party will maintain the majority advantage. But in 2010, Florida voters — far more diverse than their elected representatives — made clear they wanted to end the partisan gamesmanship in Tallahassee and amended the state Constitution to specifically say districts cannot be drawn to favor a political party or incumbent, among other constraints.

Two years later, after new lines were drawn, the Florida League of Women Voters and other groups filed suit saying lawmakers failed to follow the new standards and seeking to force legislators to the stand to explain their decisions. Legislative leaders largely shrugged, hiding behind claims of broad legislative privilege.

Florida's Legislators
can't hide anymore. The state's highest court said that exploring what lawmakers intended in the line-drawing process is an essential part of enforcing the new amendments. The justices did establish for the first time a legislative privilege that shields state lawmakers from being called to testify in a civil court matter for nearly all other types of legislative activities. The court found that a privilege exists even though Florida doesn't explicitly grant one in its Constitution or laws, as nearly all other states do.
"Hold lawmakers to account on district lines".

"An accountability system gone awry"

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Good high schools. Great faculty. Underperforming students."

That's the condensed version of recent education reports out of Tallahassee spawned by an accountability system gone awry. Apparently schools and teachers are doing great, it's just the students who aren't making the grade.

Gov. Rick Scott and local educators boasted last week that Florida high schools are doing above-average work. Some 240 high schools, or about 48 percent of Florida high schools, earned A's. And earlier this month, state reports showed a minuscule number of teachers with "unsatisfactory" job performance.

Yet Florida's graduation rate is below the national average, according to the U.S. Education Department.

"Editorial: School numbers just don't add up".

Scott makes it tougher to uncover elections fraud

"Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s division of elections has issued an opinion that could make it tougher to uncover elections fraud."

And in Miami-Dade County, the state’s hotbed of absentee shenanigans, the elections chief who sought the opinion is eager to follow suit.

In the Nov. 18 opinion, state Division of Elections Director Maria I. Matthews wrote that county elections supervisors may shield from the public Internet Protocol addresses identifying the origin of absentee-ballot requests.

Penelope Townsley, the Miami-Dade elections supervisor, plans to keep IP addresses secret.

"Had that policy been in place earlier this year, the Miami Herald would not have been able to conduct an investigation that led to the incarceration of Miami Democratic Congressman Joe Garcia’s former chief of staff."
Matthews wrote that if elections supervisors deem IP addresses to be information “necessary” to keeping absentee-ballot records, as Miami-Dade has in recent months, then the addresses are exempt from public disclosure — with a glaring exception.

Political parties, committees, candidates and their campaigns — the very people who have engaged in fraud — will still be able to obtain the information.

So will elections administrators, canvassing board members and voters seeking records of their own ballots. But not the public.

"Florida elections opinion could make uncovering fraud more difficult".