Sunday, February 08, 2015

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

Rubio is not opposed to a path to citizenship, he just wants to make it "virtually impossible"

Politifact Florida is playing word games this morning. They write that it just isn't fair for DWS to claim that would-be-preznit Marco Rubio "was for immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship before he was against it;" indeed, they question the veracity of a claim of flip-floppery on Rubio's part.

Politifact points out that, with Marco Rubio, R-Fla., considering "a bid for president, Democrats are attacking him on his signature issue: immigration. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, had this to say about her fellow Floridian:"

“Marco Rubio needs to first figure out which way the wind is blowing when it comes to committing on his position on any given issue,” said the Democratic National Committee chair. “He was for immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship before he was against it. It is really unfortunate that he has chosen the most politically expedient path on issues that matter the most to people here in Florida.”
"Has Rubio backtracked?"
We asked a few experts on immigration policy if Rubio is now “against” immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship.

“There is no substantial policy difference,” said Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute. “Sen. Rubio’s current position on handling the illegal immigrant population is very similar to his opinion in 2013. The only difference is that now Sen. Rubio wants several piecemeal bills rather than one comprehensive bill — a stylistic rather than a substantive change.”

However, Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, which advocates for a path to citizenship, says Rubio’s new approach is no tiny tweak.

“From the perspective of those of us working on immigration reform from day one, the idea of piecemeal approach is another excuse not to get to the piece that makes Republicans uncomfortable, which is legalization or a path to citizenship,” he said. “I don’t think retreat to piecemeal process is a small concession, I see it as a huge problem.”

If Wasserman Schultz’s “point is his new position makes a path to citizenship virtually impossible, I would agree with that statement,” Sharry said.

Our ruling

Wasserman Schultz said that Rubio “was for immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship before he was against it.”

The 2013 Senate bill which Rubio co-sponsored to overhaul our immigration system included a pathway to citizenship for certain illegal immigrants, albeit one with significant hurdles. After that died, Rubio said he still favored immigration reform, but that it’s only chance was through piecemeal bills. In his book, Rubio outlined specific steps for illegal immigrants to obtain legal status, and after many years eventually pursue citizenship.

There is a kernel of truth to Wasserman Schultz’s claim, though, because some immigration advocates say Rubio’s piecemeal approach greatly reduces the chance that Congress would ever get to the point of addressing residency and citizenship.

So, what is Politifact Florida's conclusion? You guessed it: they rate DWS's
claim Mostly False.
"Wasserman Schultz: Rubio now against immigration reform."

BaileyGate heats up

The Miami Herald editors argue that the "scandal over firing of FDLE chief requires independent probe." "Too smelly to ignore."

Michigan wingnuts rally around the "Jeb!"

"Ken Braun: Michigan Democrats revealed outsized fear over Jeb Bush visit." Meanwhile, "Democratic effort to define Jeb Bush starts with Mitt Romney."

"Blunder of the Year?"

Joe Henderson: "The impact of 60 characters can be substantial. That’s all Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn used from the 140 keystrokes Twitter allows to get across his view that Hillsborough County School Board members who voted to fire Superintendent MaryEllen Elia are (paraphrasing here) twits."

“‘Nuff said. School Board elections in 2 years. Just saying.”

He linked to a Washington Post blog by education writer Jay Matthews headlined “Blunder of the Year?” Matthews based his opinion of Hillsborough’s “senseless and catastrophic” move on Elia’s strong national reputation and the fact he interviewed her two years ago.

"Buckhorn’s school board tweet illustrates the big divide." See also "School board does nothing pretty well."

"Children, spouses, siblings and fraternity brothers"

"Even for South Florida, where absurd news events are routine and the sheriff went to prison for corruption, the spate of judicial scandals has raised serious questions about whether the arrests in Broward are a bizarre coincidence or underscore a larger systemic problem. In a county where the judiciary is known for old-school nepotism and cronyism, and judges have been caught smoking marijuana in a park and found drunk and partly naked in a hotel hallway, some lawyers find themselves wondering: At what point do isolated instances of misconduct point to something bigger?"

On Wednesday, WPLG, an ABC affiliate, citing anonymous sources, reported that a Broward family court judge was under federal investigation on suspicion of allowing a now-convicted Ponzi schemer to influence a case.

And this month, a former judge in Broward was disbarred for exchanging 949 phone calls and 471 text messages with the prosecutor during a death penalty case. Yet another judge was recommended for removal in April after being accused of cheating clients and a co-counsel in the settlement of a civil suit she handled as a private lawyer a decade ago.

As it turns out, bad behavior by judges has become distressingly common across Florida in recent months. Judge John C. Murphy in Brevard County is on leave after he was caught on video this month threatening a public defender, who later accused the judge of punching him in the head. In the Keys, a judge who was replaced on the bench after dozing off told a local news reporter that Ambien made him hallucinate about “ ‘Fantasia’ and the dancing brooms.” Another stepped down because a blogger exposed a sexually explicit profile the judge had posted on a gay dating site.

But Broward — a heavily Democratic county of 1.8 million people with many judges who are the children, spouses, siblings and fraternity brothers of other judges and some of the region’s most powerful people — seems to be ground zero for allegations of judicial misconduct. The system’s critics say that is because Broward has a highly politicized and clannish culture that is known for protecting its own, which has led some in the judiciary to feel invincible, even as they preside over a county court system that produces the state’s highest exoneration rate.

"Here Comes the Judge, in Cuffs - In Broward County, Fla., Spate of Judges in D.U.I. Arrests."

A Sun Sentinel guest columnist writes that the "firing of one of Broward County's DUI judges by the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission is a start to cleaning up a Broward bench that has become a national embarrassment." "Broward judiciary getting needed cleaning."

Second amendment Stoopid

"“I’m So F— Sorry”: In 911 Call of AK-47 Shooting, Regret and Worries of Going to Jail."

Actually, a "lap dog and pony show"

Joe Henderson writes that "Scott opened Thursday’s much-anticipated Cabinet meeting at the Florida State Fairgrounds with a startling admission. Of his ham-handed decision to dismiss Florida Department of Law Enforcement chief Gerald Bailey, Scott said, 'It’s clear in hindsight that I could have handled it better.'"

Watching all this at the back of the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center was Alex Sink, the former state chief financial officer who lost a close race to Scott in 2010. She happily answered questions from reporters about the meeting. Obviously, she is not the most neutral source on this subject, but that doesn’t mean what she had to say should be automatically dismissed.

And for Sink, it comes down to this: “The governor breaks the law and gets away with it.”

It got a little surreal at this point. As Sink spoke, Attorney General Pam Bondi, a dog lover, was walking down the center aisle holding a rescue dog and looking for a volunteer to give the animal a new home. Bondi eventually got within a few feet of Sink about the time she was saying, “Our attorney general is a total enabler of this governor. ... It’s an embarrassment.”

Given the setting inside an equestrian center and with Bondi’s lovable pooch center stage, it was official: We had ourselves a real dog and pony show.

Sink said firing Bailey this way broke the state’s constitution, which requires the heads of 10 state agencies to report to the Cabinet. Removing the leader of one them takes approval from at least two of four Cabinet members.

“Someone needs to control this governor and his staff,” Sink said.

At that point, a TV reporter asked Sink what made her qualified to speak on this subject since she was, in the reporter’s words, a “two-time loser” in runs for high office. She kept her cool, looked toward the front where the Cabinet meeting was still going on, and said, “I’m the only one in this room who has ever sat in one of those chairs.”

"Scott says he could have handled mess better — we know, we know."

Oh noes - not another "Republican bad girl"

"Gov. Rick Scott’s chief of staff is a 32-year-old practitioner of brass-knuckled politics who gets wide leeway." "The power behind Gov. Rick Scott."

The last we heard of that other "Republican bad girl", who liked her politics "rough," she was in a spot of trouble.

"Florida faces a pivot point"

"Florida faces a pivot point in its nation-leading drive to hold public schools accountable via high-stakes testing." "Milestone moment in high-stakes testing."

International medical treatment tourists?

"Palm Beach County is known for its sand and surf, but its state-of-the-art surgical centers could soon be drawing international tourists looking for medical treatment and a sun-filled vacation on the side." "Visit Florida, and have surgery in Jupiter."

Privatization follies

"Reports on inmate deaths weren’t regularly turned over to the state by private companies handling prison health care, as required, and medical exams showing whether inmates were injured by guards were missing in 2013 and 2014, documents obtained by The Palm Beach Post." "Private health firms withheld details of some inmate deaths."

"Cabinet and governor must conduct official business in the public eye"

Politifact Florida: "State sunshine laws, specifically Article I, Section 24 of the Florida Constitution and state statute 286.011, says the Cabinet and governor must conduct official business in the public eye. That means any time decisions are made, the quartet must perform official actions on the public record."

When it comes to Bailey’s departure, there’s no provision outlining how the FDLE commissioner will be removed, only that he "shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor and Cabinet." (We also need to mention that this is not the case for all officials. Removing the director of the Office of Insurance Regulation, for example, does have a clear process defined.)
"As for a replacement, the governor nominates a person and the Cabinet is supposed to discuss it and votes on it at a public meeting. State statute 20.201 says the head of the FDLE "shall be appointed by the Governor with the approval of three members of the Cabinet and subject to confirmation by the Senate." The Cabinet confirmed Scott’s pick of Swearingen as Bailey’s replacement at the Jan. 13 meeting."
Bondi suggested the staff knew about Bailey’s ouster outside of the public meetings, without Scott’s knowledge. If that’s the case, courts have ruled that too could violate the Sunshine Law. It’s not appropriate or permissible to use staff to get around the requirements to conduct public business in public, courts have said.
"Examining Florida's Sunshine Law in wake of Gerald Bailey controversy."