Thursday, November 27, 2014

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

"Scott has signed more death warrants in a single term than any other governor"

"Saturday afternoon, the United States joined China, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya and 29 other nations in opposing a vote at the United Nations to declare a moratorium on the death penalty. The resolution passed 113 to 36, with 34 abstentions. So far this year, 33 people have been executed in the United States, eight of them in Florida, second only to Texas, which executed 10 people."

On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott, who has signed more death warrants in a single term than any other governor, on Monday signed his 21st death warrant, tying him with Jeb Bush, who signed 21 death warrants in eight years as governor.
"Scott Signs 21st Death Warrant 3 Days After UN Vote Calling for Capital Punishment Moratorium."

"DEP chief resigns at critical time"

"Herschel Vinyard Jr. is leaving the DEP at a critical time: The agency will guide Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature as the state implements Amendment 1." "DEP chief resigns at critical time for Florida environment."

FlaGOP cost cutting jeopardizes kid safety

News Service of Florida: "After months of reports about problems in Florida's child-welfare system, lawmakers this year approved a reform bill that included establishing an institute to guide state leaders by evaluating the success of policies."

"The institute's interim director, Patty Babcock, said workforce issues remain Florida's biggest problem in keeping children safe."

"We just don't have the manpower to do what we need to do," she said. "Without the dollars for that workforce issue, we're not going to be able to, one, keep kids safe. And two, we're not going to be able to get them into the services they need in a timely manner."
"Florida child-welfare workers welcome counsel of new institute."

"A wildly delusional leap"

Nancy Smith: "Make no mistake, Kevin Cate is a sharp, young political consultant with solid Obama campaign creds and offices in St. Petersburg and Tallahassee. I admired his work, especially for the president. But I must tell you, I think this commentary of his, 'How Charlie Crist Won' is a wildly delusional leap even for me -- who loves an edgy turn of phrase and daring intent as much as anyone." "Pssst, Kevin Cate: It Wasn't Just Money That Sank Charlie Crist."

Jeb Trails Romney and Clinton in Latest Q Poll of 2016 Hopefuls

"A new poll released Wednesday morning found Republican voters are still inclined to back some familiar names in the 2016 presidential race."

Two-time presidential candidate Mitt Romney led the crowded field with 19% support, the Quinnipiac University survey found. The runner-up was former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), the brother and son of two recent presidents, with 11%.

Meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and Dr. Ben Carson, a prominent conservative activist, each had 8% support in the poll. No other Republican candidate topped 6%.

"POLL: Republicans Like Mitt Romney And Jeb Bush In 2016."

In the general, Romney runs best against Clinton, "taking 45 percent to her 44 percent. In other matchups:"

- Clinton gets 43 percent to Christie's 42 percent;

- Clinton tops Paul 46 - 41 percent;

- She beats former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee 46 - 41 percent;

- Clinton tops Jeb Bush 46 - 41 percent;

- She gets 46 percent to 42 percent for U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin;

- Clinton tops U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas 48 - 37 percent.

"November 26, 2014 - Romney, Bush Are Top GOP Contenders For 2016 Race, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Clinton Leads, Tied With Christie Or Romney."

"Bainter's shop provided a pipeline from the Republican Party of Florida"

These are the kinds of stories we will lose if the print media continues its economic collapse - From the Orlando Sentinel's Aaron Deslatte yesterday: "Long before the first public maps were released, critics say Florida Republican political operatives were creating an 'illusion' of non-partisanship over the once-a-decade redistricting process with a 'wink and a nudge toward their collaborators in the Legislature.'"

That illusion was outed Tuesday when the Florida Supreme Court released thousands of pages of emails, testimony and sealed court records related to the GOP political consulting firm Data Targeting, which was at the center of the two-year legal fight over lawmakers' attempts to implement anti-gerrymandering reforms passed by voters.

The Gainesville-based company's president, Pat Bainter, has been fighting to block the release of over 500 pages of emails, maps and other records from 2011 and 2012. The records provide some insight into the lengths to which the political operatives went to influence the 2012 redistricting process in which the Legislature had been tasked for the first time with drawing new legislative and congressional maps without partisan intent.

Last June, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled the GOP had violated the 2010 Fair Districts reforms when it drew new congressional districts, and blasted Republican political operatives for waging a "secret, organized campaign to subvert the supposedly open and transparent redistricting process."

"They managed to taint the redistricting process," Lewis penned, "and the resulting map with improper partisan intent," by writing scripts for people to use when testifying, and submitting public maps through third-parties.

"The records "show the right-hand men of Florida's Republican legislative leadership at the helm of a coordinated operation to recruit and instruct people to submit "public" maps prepared by party operatives in order to maintain GOP super-majorities in the Legislature." Behind the scenes email show Bainter
arranged for intermediaries to submit five maps drawn by GOP operatives. Bainter suggested he could round up “10 more people at least” to do the same.

Through fellow Gainesville Republican Stafford Jones and consultant Rich Heffley -- who has worked for current Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando -- Bainter's shop provided a pipeline from the Republican Party of Florida, which was preparing draft congressional and legislative plans, to the Legislature's portal for public map submissions, records show.

After RPOF operative Frank Terraferma submitted a proposed congressional plan to Bainter in October 2011, Bainter wrote to his staff that "We will NOT exactly copy this map, but it does give you something to go on. In particular take note of the new Hispanic Central Florida District," a version of which would later be won by Democrat Alan Grayson.

In another message that month to Bainter, consultant Anthony Pedicini wrote he had an alternative map called "Impartial" that constructed a Central Florida Hispanic congressional seat which would draw three Tampa Bay Republicans into the same district.

"If that happens, I am going to talk to Dean and Cretul," Pedicini wrote, referring to then House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, and former Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, who went to work lobbying with Cannon.

Bainter replied the same day, "I need a map. Time critical. I am being pinged as we speak."

Over the next two months, his associates prepared draft maps, enlisted people in specific legislative districts to submit them with instructions on what to say, briefed GOP lawmakers and their political consultants on maps, and repeatedly warned all the participants to avoid creating an email chain.

"Want to echo Pat's reminder about being incredibly careful and deliberative here, especially when working with people who are organizing other folks," one Data Targeting employee, Matt Mitchell, wrote on Nov. 29, 2011, ahead of legislative meetings on the maps.

"Must be very smart in how we prep every single person we talk to about all of these," he went on. "If you can think of a more secure and failsafe way to engage our people, please do it. Cannot be too redundant on that front. Pat and I will probably sound almost paranoid on this over the next week, but it will be so much more worthwhile to be cautious."

Another consultant then replied, "Just to ease your minds, I have tried to do most of the asking over the phone, so their is no e-mail trail if it gets forwarded. . . .

One of the biggest bombshells of the trial came courtesy of former Florida State University student Alex Posada -- once praised by GOP lawmakers for maps he supposedly submitted to the Legislature in 2011 – who said under oath he was asked to participate and did not draw any of the maps submitted under his name.

"Redistricting records: GOP-led process was an 'illusion'."

Gambling deal with Seminoles a crapshoot

"Re-upping a lucrative gambling deal between the state and the Seminole Tribe could become a crapshoot when lawmakers return to Tallahassee next year."

Florida stands to lose about $116 million a year if the portion of the compact giving the Seminoles exclusive rights to table games such as blackjack expires, according to the latest estimate from state economists.
"Will gambling pact be renewed? It's a roll of the dice."