Wednesday, December 16, 2015

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

Senate's redistricting expert "picked apart"

"An academic expert witness hired by the Senate to defend its redistricting maps was picked apart by the plaintiffs Tuesday, leaving moments of tense silence because he could not answer direct questions."

At issue was a report done by Baodong Liu, a University of Utah political science professor, who was hired by the Senate as an expert witness for the both the Senate redistricting challenge and a separate congressional lawsuit.
"Senate 'expert' comes under fire in redistricting trial" (internal quotations added).

Tampa remains eager to make the most of normalized U.S. and Cuba relations

"If there were any doubts Tampa was eager to make the most of better relations between the U.S. and Cuba, the year since it happened puts them to rest. Civic and elected officials have advocated for a Cuban consulate here, started cultural exchange programs, forged an environmental research partnership and welcomed Cuban dignitaries to both sides of the bay." "Tampa makes Cuba inroads in first year of normalization."

Lawson to run for Congress, Brown eyes Orlando

"Former state senator Al Lawson announced Tuesday he'll run for Florida’s newly drawn 5th Congressional District, putting more pressure on Rep. Corrine Brown to seek the seat or else run for a new one based in Orlando. The race could get crowded. Fellow Democrat Andrew Gillum, Tallahassee’s mayor, told POLITICO Florida this month that he’s eying the seat." "Lawson announces run for Congress."

"Lawson said he spoke with Brown, the Jacksonville Democrat who has served the current configuration of the district since 1992, and calls her a longtime friend. 'She's given all kinds of indications she'll run out of Orlando,' he told the Miami Herald." "Lawson to run for Congress, says Brown may move to Orlando race."

Florida’s graduation rate remains well below national rate

"Florida’s high school graduation rate continues to rise ever so slightly, but it still remains well below the national rate." "Florida's Graduation Rate Improves, But Still Trails Behind National Average."

Rubio really right-wing throwback

"Marco Rubio often pitches himself as the candidate of the future, but when it comes to the issue of same-sex marriage, he's something of a throwback." "Rubio's Same-Sex Marriage Opposition Clashes With Generational Message."

Even the Orlando Sentinel gets it

Even the Orlando Sentinel editorial board gets it: Florida's corrections officers "haven't received a general pay hike in eight years. Their average salary of less than $32,000 a year makes them among the lowest-paid guards in the nation's biggest prison systems. Nearly a third of Florida's correctional officers leave within two years to take higher-paying jobs elsewhere, leaving less experienced guards in charge."

But Scott, who proposed $1 billion in tax cuts in his latest budget, didn't include money for raises for correctional officers. Jones has not asked legislators to fund raises, either. Scott did include funding for additional staff and capital improvements in prisons, but those will be of limited benefit as long as the department hemorrhages officers as fast as it trains them.
"For safety's sake, reform Fla. prisons."

Teabaggers run wild at GOP debate

"Edging closer to Donald Trump at the top of the crowded Republican presidential field are two men with remarkably similar biographies: first-term senators in their mid-40s from large Sun Belt states, born five months apart to Cuban American families and propelled into the Senate by tea party rage." "Twin paths of Rubio and Cruz end at their political perspectives."


"Once posh destinations drawing A-list socialites, celebrities and gangsters, Florida’s dog and horse tracks are now at the center of a dispute over whether they should be allowed to do away with live racing altogether. The issue, known as 'decoupling,' is one of several key items lawmakers and industry leaders are trying to work out as they cobble together gambling legislation for the session that begins next month." "Seminole gambling deal draws opposition from horse industry."

"Bear hunting and witch hunting"

"At the state level, 2015 was all about bear hunting and witch hunting."

"What's hot, crazy or shady about politics in the Sunshine State"

Marc Caputo: "Grayson’s Iran oil deal – The Rubio-Cruz debate -- WPB tenants want De-Trumpification –‘Too Tall’ Lawson makes CD5 move – Curbelo wants a Cuban welfare crackdown." "Florida Playbook."