Thursday, April 02, 2015

After reading the hard copy of your hometown newspaper, please consider becoming a site fan on Facebook and following us on Twitter. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Did Bondi violate sunshine law in selecting lawyer to defend sunshine law case?

"Rick Scott and Cabinet members Tuesday hired a law firm to represent them — an action that in itself should have been handled more openly, some lawyers said."

In a nine-minute meeting, the four statewide officials voted to spend up to $50,000 of tax dollars with the Tallahassee law firm Shutts & Bowen and attorney Daniel Nordby, who also represents the Republican Party of Florida.

Nordby will represent the Cabinet, the fifth named defendant in a lawsuit filed by more than a dozen Florida news outlets following the forced ouster of a top state law enforcement official. He was recommended by Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Cabinet member who collected applications from five firms and settled on Nordby after consulting with her staff.

“Proposals were collected and posted online for the public and Cabinet to review, and the Governor and Cabinet made the decision to hire the counsel in an open and public meeting,” said Pat Gleason, special counsel to Bondi’s office and an expert in Sunshine Law, in a statement. “Furthermore the Attorney General’s review of the proposals was consistent with all applicable case law and attorney general opinions.”

Open government experts and legal opinions by prior state attorneys general say that when a collegial body subject to the Sunshine Law such as the Cabinet delegates decision-making authority to a single member, that process itself must be done publicly.

Bondi said she reviewed law firms’ applications with her staff before deciding on a recommendation. Her staff said no violation occurred because Bondi recommended Nordby on her own.

“My office lawyers know this work. They know it well,” she said in the Cabinet meeting. “They’ve reviewed with me the submissions we’ve received because this is what they do.”

Barbara Petersen, executive director of the First Amendment Foundation, an open government watchdog group, said Tuesday’s action underscores a weakness in Florida’s Sunshine Law.<.P She said it’s a mystery whether Bondi acted alone in recommending Nordby, which would be legal, or relied on her staff’s input, which should have been done publicly.

"Lawyer’s hiring by Cabinet in Sunshine Law case raises new openness questions."

Choice games

"A Senate committee on Tuesday quickly passed contentious legislation creating a 24-hour waiting period before a woman can get an abortion, leaving more than 30 speakers unable to address the bill." "Lawmakers advance bill delaying abortions for 24 hours."

Rubio in

"Marco Rubio confirms presidential announcement date"

Florida eye doctor indicted in U.S. Sen. Menendez corruption case

"A 68-page federal indictment charges that U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez illegally used his influence to benefit his friend and major donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen, a West Palm Beach physician." "Sen. Robert Menendez, South Florida eye doctor indicted in federal corruption case."

"Pressure mounts"

Update: "As pressure mounts, health care talks delayed." "A coalition of politicians, business people, consumer advocates and healthcare professionals came together Tuesday to urge the state Legislature to accept federal money to provide health insurance for up 1 million uninsured Floridians." "Coalition calls for state House to accept federal money for health insurance."

Stop the madness

"The Florida Senate took a critical step Wednesday toward temporarily suspending school grades in response to the outcry statewide among parents, teachers and superintendents who want a smoother transition as the state shifts to new standards and tests." "Florida Senate moves to temporarily suspend school grades." See also "Heat Rises in the Senate over School Grades, Standardized Testing Bill."

"Tallahassee’s broken politics"

Jacksonville’s been on Scott’s mind:

On Monday, he endorsed former Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) Chairman Lenny Curry who faces Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown in the second run of the Jacksonville mayoral election next month. Brown, a Democrat, has stressed he has worked well with Scott and the governor did not go after the Jacksonville mayor in his endorsement on Monday.

“Lenny Curry is a principled conservative who is committed to job growth and has what it takes to lead Jacksonville toward a prosperous future," Scott said. "I support Lenny Curry as Jacksonville’s next mayor.”

“Rick Scott has made Florida the best place to live, work, and raise a family,” Curry said. “I’m proud to have worked side-by-side with him for his re-election, and humbled to have the governor endorse my vision to restore Jacksonville’s greatness.”

"Unlike Scott and Curry, Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arceneaux took off the gloves on Monday."
“It’s no surprise that Rick Scott would endorse his former party boss Lenny Curry who fought so strongly to defend the governor’s voter purge that sought to disenfranchise Florida’s minority voters,” Arceneaux said. “Time and time again, Curry has shown that he’s just the kind of person that Scott likes to surround himself with -- a career political hack who prioritizes partisan politics over doing what’s right for the people of Florida. Lenny Curry and Rick Scott’s backroom dealings and assaults on Florida’s Constitution represent everything that the residents of Jacksonville hate about Tallahassee’s broken politics.”
"Scott Turns His Focus to Jacksonville on Jobs and Mayoral Race."

Corporate welfare

The Orlando Sentinel editors: "Midway through this year's legislative session, Florida's Senate and House have been playing tug of war on several major issues, but they seem to be pulling in the same direction on at least one: business incentives." "Add accountability, limits to business tax breaks."


"Senate approves plan to create prison watchdog board."

Florida fracking

"A proposal to regulate hydraulic fracturing cleared a Senate panel Tuesday, despite calls from opponents and some state lawmakers to ban the method in Florida." "Lawmakers move to regulate ‘fracking’ amid calls to ban it."