Saturday, April 09, 2016

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

"Latest chapter in a mushrooming scandal"

"New details are emerging on the embattled Broward Health board's political ties to contractors and its involvement in doctors' contracts, as one former commissioner's constitutional power struggle with one-time ally Gov. Rick Scott spills into a Broward County courtroom Friday."

A judge is scheduled to hold a hearing on the governor’s executive order last month to suspend two of his hand-picked Broward Health commissioners after Scott’s inspector general alleged that the commissioners, David Di Pietro and Darryl Wright, were interfering with an ongoing state probe into a number of recently approved contracts.
" Di Pietro, a rising star in Broward County Republican circles and husband of County Judge Nina Weatherly Di Pietro, immediately challenged Scott’s move, calling into question the governor’s legal authority to remove him from board, which oversees five hospitals, three outpatient centers and three urgent care facilities."
This is just the latest chapter in a mushrooming scandal that has included the January suicide of the Broward Health CEO, questionable contracts and a deepening investigation by authorities that Di Pietro in the court filings said now includes the FBI.
"Court fight over Broward Health board highlights contracts, campaign cash."

Scott denies he's corrupt

"Scott’s political committee hits back after Starbucks confrontation."

Kansas, Georgia and Alabama get blessing to to make motor voter registration harder

"The federal Election Assistance Commission was formed after the disputed 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore and given an innocuous name and a seemingly inoffensive mission: to help state election officials make it easier to vote."

In this ideologically riven election season, it turns out, that is not easy at all.

The election commission is in federal court this month, essentially accused of trying to suppress voter turnout in this November’s election. The Justice Department, its nominal legal counsel, has declined to defend it. Its case instead is being pleaded by one of the nation’s leading advocates of voting restrictions. The agency’s chairman has disavowed its actions.

"The quarrel exemplifies how the mere act of voting has become enmeshed in volatile partisan politics. Seventeen states will impose new voting restrictions for November’s presidential election. Many are the object of disputes between those who say they are rooting out voter fraud and those who say the real goal is to keep Democratic-leaning voters from casting ballots."
The lawsuit’s origin is straightforward. The agency’s executive director, Brian D. Newby, had been in his job less than three months in January when he unilaterally reversed a policy that the body’s commissioners, two Democrats and two Republicans, had endorsed since the agency’s creation in 2002: that people registering to vote need offer no proof, beyond swearing an oath, that they are American citizens.

That decision gave Kansas, Georgia and Alabama officials a blessing to alter the federal voter registration applications handed out in motor vehicle offices and many other state agencies, replacing the oath with something stiffer: a demand for proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate.

"The Voter Support Agency Accused of Suppressing Votes."

Hispanic voter registration drive in Florida

"The nation's largest Hispanic civil rights organization has launched a major voter-registration drive in the battleground state of Florida to identify and sign up hundreds of thousands of potential Hispanic voters." "National Hispanic group launches voter registration drive in Florida."

Private pre-ks get another pass

"For the second year in a row, the state will not be rating the 6,220 preschools collecting cash through Florida’s Voluntary Prekindergarten program. And lawmakers have dictated that scores won’t be calculated for next year either."

Ever since Florida lawmakers saw fit to invest millions to cover the cost of prekindergarten for the state’s 4-year-olds more than a decade ago, they also required those schools, most of them private, to be rated based on how well their students were prepared once they got to kindergarten.

But that rating system was derailed in the fall of 2014 by a new computer-based test.

What was supposed to be a better way to gauge how much a kindergartner knew about letters, their sounds and how they combine to make words, proved to be an epic technological and logistical failure that unraveled on Facebook.

"Pre-K rating halted after 1 test failed, another too good to be true."

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

Marc Caputo: "Politics, posturing in Trump aide’s prosecution – Grayson v. Beruff in border-wall money fight – Audit: FAMU broke state laws, school policies -- Scott signs Everglades law -- Carnival Cruise’s Castro kowtow." "Florida Playbook."

Trump fires "warning shot" at Florida prosecutor

"When Donald Trump suggests he could file battery charges against the reporter who accused his campaign manager of a crime, he isn’t whining or simply threatening retaliation."

Trump is effectively firing a warning shot at the Florida prosecutor in the case against Corey Lewandowski, who was cited for misdemeanor battery last week by police for allegedly forcefully yanking reporter Michelle Fields away from the presidential candidate during a campaign event in Jupiter.
"Trump test-drives top aide’s defense in battery case."

FlaDems convene circular firing squad

"As Murphy attacked Grayson,"

Murphy was forced to defend himself against allegations of impropriety by the Senate Leadership Fund, a political action committee dedicated to maintaining Republican Senate control.

The Senate Leadership Fund said in February that Murphy had pushed legislation to strengthen the federal EB-5 visa program used by developers to gain foreign investment and bring workers from other countries to the United States. It said the measure would benefit a company, Coastal Construction, owned by Murphy’s father in which the congressman holds a large stake.

That company, the Senate Leadership Fund said, is one of two main contractors on a mega-project called SkyRise Miami, whose developer, Jeffrey Berkowitz, is a major employer of EB-5 workers and wants to use them to help build his planned 1,000-foot-high tower overlooking Biscayne Bay.

The bill died in the last session of Congress, but it remains an issue. Murphy denied that his support for the measure had anything to do with the family business.

"In race to replace Rubio, Democrats open fire in Florida."