"It's a testament to Crist's political smarts that most of the people he's relying on lately are among the smartest and most plugged-in Democratic political minds in the state. Sometimes they offer advice, sometimes they make introductions. None is paid."
Among politicians, there is [Dan] Gelber in Miami-Dade; former state Sen. Steve Geller in Broward County; former U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler of Palm Beach County, now head of the Washington-based Center for Middle East Peace; former state Sen. Tony Hill of Jacksonville; and former Attorney General Bob Butterworth."Unquestionably, Crist's top adviser lately is John Morgan, his boss at the Morgan & Morgan personal injury law firm, a longtime political power broker who has backed Democrats and Republicans alike and is one of the state's top fundraisers."
The operatives he communicates with most frequently are the A-team of Florida Democratic politics: Johnson, Rep. Murphy's chief of staff; [Steve] Schale, who ran Barack Obama's 2008 Florida campaign; and Ashley Walker, who ran Obama's 2012 Florida campaign and developed a relationship with Crist as he campaigned for Obama.
"I talk to him, just as I talk to a lot of statewide Democrats, but I'm not committed to any candidate at this point," Walker said, echoing the sentiments of most of Crist's loose-knit crew of advisers, who also speak highly of prospective gubernatorial candidates Alex Sink and Sen. Bill Nelson.
A couple of Democratic pros in Tampa who keep their profiles lower have longstanding friendships with Crist: Mike Hamby, a businessman and former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party who went to Cumberland Law School with Crist; and Bernie Campbell, who works extensively abroad and even as he was working to elect Democrats across Florida a few years ago quietly helped craft speeches for the then-Republican governor.
Greg Truax, a public relations consultant in Tampa, these days serves as Crist's de facto "body man," accompanying the would-be candidate to public events. Former aide Michelle Todd of St. Petersburg often fields interview requests from national media outlets.
Already, some Democratic allies are fretting that against an incumbent governor planning to spend $100 million in an era where messaging is shaped minute by minute, Crist will suffer if he fails to quickly invest in policy advisers, communications pros and opposition researchers. (Their first order of business, by the way, would be to look at Crist's own record and comments over his lifetime as a Republican.)"Behind would-be Democratic candidate Charlie Crist, a loose-knit crew ofadvisers".
"If you're going to be successful you have to rely on the professionals,'' said Hamby, who is confident Crist would do just that. "He would build an effective operation. There's no question it's a different game today, just the whole nature of campaigns and how they operate."
Crist is giving every indication he's intends to run, speaking to Democratic groups, meeting with influential ministers, labor groups, activists and fundraisers. But nobody, except perhaps Crist and a few family members, knows for sure.
Scott's donor deal
"Hue and cry grows over deal for Scott donor".
"South Florida liberal"
"As Democrats look to knock off Gov. Rick Scott next year, the only official major candidate seeking the party’s nomination is playing up her liberal credentials. In recent days, former Florida Senate Democrat Leader Nan Rich tipped her cards as she continues her long-shot gubernatorial bid -- and her plan is clearly to go left."
Democrats continue to pine for a major candidate to enter the race -- former state CFO Alex Sink, despite her loss to Scott in 2010; former Gov. Charlie Crist, despite his previous political career as a Republican and running for the U.S. Senate with no party affiliation; former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio; and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson."Nan Rich Goes Left, Earns Some Distinction".
Meanwhile, Rich is signaling that she is going to run as a South Florida liberal, hoping this will rally Democratic primary voters to her standard.
"As summer begins, Rep. Ken Roberson, R-Punta Gorda, appears in excellent shape as he seeks a fourth and final term next year in the Florida House." "Ken Roberson Looks to Have His Last Year in a House Seat Locked Up".
"Stubborn achievement gap among Florida students"
"Tests results reveal a stubborn achievement gap among Florida students. More than two-thirds of white students scores indicate they are reading at or above grade level while barely half of Hispanic students and 38 percent of black students reach the mark. " "3rd-grade FCAT reading and math scores remain flat".
"Partisan political shenanigans are not 'state secrets'"
Aaron Deslatte: "Florida's redistricting fight may be years away from a conclusion, but there are important rules of the road that are being established."
Florida's courts are in the midst of defining for decades how to implement new "Fair Districts" standards in the once-a-decade redistricting process – and, crucially, whether citizens should simply trust lawmakers to implement fair maps."The Supreme Court hasn't ruled yet on whether the challenge to the Senate maps can go forward."
Republican legislative leaders have defended their work product last year, which resulted in slimmer GOP majorities in the Legislature and 27-member congressional delegation but kept them comfortably in control.
But this week, the Legislature scored a victory when the First District Court of Appeal ruled in a 2-1 decision that lawmakers couldn't be questioned under oath about their intentions when they drew the congressional maps.
The majority opinion drew a stern rebuttal from First DCA Chief Judge Robert T. Benton II, who wrote in his dissent that "partisan political shenanigans are not 'state secrets.'"
The constitutional passage of Fair Districts "makes plain that how and why the Legislature redistricts is a matter of paramount public concern," he wrote.
"Legislators should not, and until today did not, enjoy any blanket immunity from discovery, by virtue of their status as Legislators."
Look for more ground to shift under the feet of the public and politicians before the fight is over."What's 'intentional' in redistricting is still being defined".
"Too many grudges"
The Palm Beach Post editors: "Why are the Florida Legislature’s auditors going after Palm Beach County’s new ethics commission? Because a state senator harbors too many grudges." "Abruzzo using Senate power to seek revenge".
"Weekly Roundup: Scott Signs Budget, Then Heads for the Border". See also "The Week in Review for May 17, 2013".
"Lawyers to take over"
"Lawyers to take over jobless-benefit appeals in Florida".
"Avalanche of money flowing into campaigns"
The Tampa Trib editors: "State lawmakers took a big step this past legislative session toward making campaign finance reporting more transparent and accountable."
Although new rules signed into law this year will do little to stem the avalanche of money flowing into campaigns, they at least establish a reporting system that gives voters an understanding of the people and corporations behind the donations."Reforms let Florida voters follow the money".
Scott's vetoes about politics not priorities
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Scott’s vetoes more about politics than priorities".
Kochs eye South Florida Sun Sentinel
Fred Grimm bemoans the Sun Sentinelhaving been "dragged down by the recession, falling ad revenue, flagging circulation and mostly by dunderhead notions of Chicago real estate billionaire Sam Zell, who bought the Tribune Company in 2007, [and] saddled it with $13 billion in debt, put a former radio shock jock in charge, destroyed 4,500 jobs, looted retirement accounts and drove a great American media conglomerate into bankruptcy."
But the Tribune Company emerged from bankruptcy Dec. 31 and its stakeholders indicated an interest in selling off the company’s newspapers sector (holding on to 23 TV stations), including the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, the Orlando Sentinel, the Hartford Courant and the Sun Sentinel. Last month, reports surfaced that the libertarian activists Kochs were interested. The guess is that the winning bid would require somewhere between $600 million and $700 million, pocket change for brothers at the head of $115 billion Koch Industries.However, "more than 67 percent of Broward County’s electorate voted for Barack Obama, the very fellow that the Koch brothers and their Americans for Prosperity foundation spent an estimated $30 million trying to unseat in 2012."
The Kochs might also discover that grand philosophical ideas nurtured, with their millions, in the Cato Institute don’t quite translate to local newspaper coverage. Local newspapering has less to do with philosophy than with keeping an eye on influence peddlers or worrying about who’s stealing the silverware down at County Hall. The Kochs and their minions can deny global warming and rising sea levels on the editorial pages, but their newsrooms can’t pretend that big chunks of A1A didn’t wash away on Lauderdale beach last fall. There’s nothing theoretical about failing sewers and flooded streets."Broward may be Koch brothers’ deal from hell". See also "Extremists On Verge of Controlling I-4 Corridor Newspapers".
They can preach self-sufficiency, but local newspapers can’t ignore homeless camps in city parks or natural disaster victims begging for government help. The libertarian promise to abolish Social Security won’t endear a newspaper to precious readers in Century Village.
The Kochs, not in the habit of losing money, might come to wonder if they were snookered into buying the Tribune Company newspapers. If it was some liberal conspiracy to get them to fritter away millions that might have gone to the American Legislative Exchange Council or the Heartland Institute or the Heritage Foundation.
"The Florida Supreme Court embraced justice for all Floridians on Thursday when it reaffirmed the right of the poor to adequate legal counsel. The court ruled that trial courts can stop assigning public defenders to new cases when the Legislature has provided so little money that the result is overwhelming case loads. The ruling, 5-2, is a triumph of reality over the wishful thinking of legislative leadership. At some point, the cost of justice denied is more than any dollars and cents the Legislature wants to save." "The Florida Supreme Court embraced justice for all Floridians Thursday when it reaffirmed the poor's right to adequate legal counsel.".
"Pam Bondi, Lizbeth Benacquisto Selected for National GOP Leadership Roles".
Republicans preside over doubling of food stamp usage in Florida
"In spite of the Sunshine State's declining unemployment rate, the number of Floridians on food stamps -- now called SNAP benefits -- has risen in alarming numbers, actually doubling in five years." "Number of Floridians Receiving SNAP Benefits Doubles In Five Years".
"Nelson-for-governor thing may be the real deal"
Scott Maxwell "is increasingly hearing" "buzz that this Bill Nelson-for-governor thing may be the real deal. That would be interesting — not only to watch Nelson vs. Rick Scott, but also to see the scrambling to fill his U.S. Senate seat.".
Scraping the bottom
"Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., was in town recently to interview potential Murphy challengers. McHenry heads up recruiting efforts for the National Republican Congressional Committee." "Murphy draws another out-of-state Republican to South Florida".
More RPOF corporate welfare
The "Tampa Bay Times editors: "Citizens Property Insurance Corp. will never win any popularity contests, and here is another reason why. The state-run insurer's board narrowly decided Wednesday to give away $52 million to a new St. Petersburg insurer with no track record and questionable leadership that will take up to 60,000 Citizens policies. It's a bad deal for Citizens, for homeowners who may be sucked into the small start-up and eventually pay higher rates, and for the state."
Gov. Rick Scott, who defends this corporate welfare, and Citizens board members keep finding more ways to hurt consumers. Florida has been fortunate to avoid direct hits by hurricanes for seven years, and Citizens has a record cash surplus of $6.4 billion. Despite all of the scare tactics about the potential for large assessments after major hurricanes to cover insured losses, Citizens has enough available capital to cover losses from a 1-in-58-year hurricane without any assessments. But the governor and the Citizens board are determined to reduce the size of the insurer regardless of the cost and the poor track record of too many start-up private insurers that may bite off more than they can handle."The company's best qualification appears to be its $140,000 in political contributions to the governor and state Republican Party in the few months it has been in business. Gilway also has an odd definition of "quality management.'' Heritage's president, Richard Widdicombe, has previously run insurance companies in Florida that were fined by the state for dozens of violations. Its vice president of claims operations, Paul G. Neilson, worked for Citizens and oversaw its controversial reinspection program that cost 250,000 homeowners more than $200 million in increased premiums. So the same guy who helped bring in millions to Citizens through a suspect reinspection program now is taking tens of millions from Citizens for his new private company. How convenient."
Heritage Property and Casualty Insurance Co. just opened nine months ago and has about 40,000 customers — all or most of them former Citizens customers. Yet the Citizens board voted 3-2 to more than double Heritage's number of customers and increase the company's capital by roughly 50 percent. Scott says it is Citizens' responsibility to act in the best interest of its policyholders, but the only interest this sweetheart deal serves is Heritage's. It also appears to fly in the face of the intent of the Legislature, where House Speaker Will Weatherford helped stop Citizens' plan last year to loan private insurers $350 million to take policies. The details of Heritage's unusual arrangement are different, but the result is the same: Citizens policyholders are subsidizing an unproven private insurer, and those whose policies are taken by Heritage may wind up with less reliable coverage and higher rates after three years than they would have if they stayed with Citizens. It's no coincidence that Citizens' decision occurred after the legislative session ended even though the discussions with Heritage have been going on since March.
"Sweetheart insurance deal hurts consumers".
"Not in the direction of environmental protection"
"Former DEP attorney Christopher T. Byrd wrote on his Facebook page that a new DEP general counsel 'is moving in a 'new direction,' not in the direction of environmental protection, thanks (Gov.) Rick Scott.' A department spokesman said reduction of four attorneys was about reduced caseload and has nothing to do with less environmental protection. " "4 DEP attorneys ousted, prompting Facebook backlash".
"Scott campaign against Charlie Crist"
Adam Smith: "The Rick Scott campaign against Charlie Crist in 1 graphic".
Tampa crazies claim "Obama is targeting whites"
"Florida Tea Parties Mull Joining IRS Lawsuits". Meanwhile, in Tampa "protesters, some from Tampa 9-12 and other tea party groups, came out to demand change. Some said they want the IRS to be audited. Others want the agency disbanded."
Speaking over a bullhorn, 57-year-old John Junstrom of Tampa said: "The IRS must stop targeting Christians and tea partiers and patriots. This is tyranny. Obama is targeting whites and Christians."Tampa tea party groups protest at IRS office".
"Obama hates the tea party and all other patriots and all those who uphold and obey the Constitution."
"Scott donor giveaway?"
"Two months after contributing $110,000 to Gov. Rick Scott’s reelection campaign, an upstart property insurance company is likely to reap a $52 million windfall, paid from the coffers of Citizens Property Insurance Corp."
Sitting on a record cash surplus of $6.4 billion, Citizens is hoping to ink a special deal Wednesday with Heritage Property and Casualty Insurance Company, a St. Petersburg firm that opened for business nine months ago and made significant political contributions.
"Heritage has donated more than $140,000 to Scott and the Republican Party of Florida in recent months, and spent tens of thousands more lobbying the Legislature. Now it’s in line to get special treatment from Florida’s state-run insurance firm in the form of an unusual and lucrative “reinsurance quota share” agreement.
If the Citizens board of governors approves on Wednesday, the state-run insurer will pay Heritage up to $52 million to take over 60,000 policies, about $866 a piece."Sweet deal for state taxpayers or Scott donor giveaway?"
"Puzzling at best"
The Tampa Trib editors: "Scott’s rejection of Amazon’s plans to build a warehouse in Florida is puzzling at best. At worst, it smacks of politics getting in the way of what’s best for Florida." "Scott wrong on Amazon deal".
"Florida’s Republican leaders -- including former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio -- will be on center stage in July when Maverick PAC (MavPAC) hosts its annual conference in Miami."
Led by Texas-based George P. Bush, son of the former governor and the nephew, grandson and namesake of two former presidents, MavPAC looks to support conservative candidates and bring young professionals into the political process. The group claims to have more than 3,500 in chapters across the nation, including four based in Florida."Expect Florida's GOP High-Flyers in Miami for Annual MavPAC Conference".
Bill reverses some Republican voting restrictions
"Scott has finished the fix of the flawed election law that relegated Florida to a late-night joke in 2012 by signing an elections cleanup bill passed on the final day of the legislative session." "Gov. Rick Scott signs elections bill to fix long voter lines".
The bill "attempts to reverse some of the restrictions the Republican-controlled Legislature put in place in 2011, including allowing more early-voting."
The legislation is a response to the ridicule Florida received in the days after President Barack Obama's re-election when votes were still being counted in a few counties. . . ."Gov. Scott signs elections bill extending early voting". See also "Gov. Scott signs bill to restore early voting days", "Scott signs elections package" and "Gov. Scott signs elections bill to fix long voter lines".
Lawmakers also added a provision late in the session to move Florida's 2016 presidential primary back from January to a later date so the state won't be penalized by the national Republican and Democratic parties.
It also increases the allowable early voting hours, and goes from eight days to 14 days. The Legislature had reduced that early-voting window to one week in 2011, which some evidence has found decreased early-voting turnout last year -- particularly among minorities.
It also expands the locations for early voting from just election offices and city halls to include courthouses, civic centers, stadiums, convention centers, fairgrounds and government-owned senior and community centers.
Crist making the rounds
"It’s still unknown how well Charlie Crist’s newly minted Democratic ideals will withstand the intense scrutiny and pressure of a gubernatorial campaign. What is clear is that to succeed at another tilt at the governor’s mansion, the once- Republican governor will need to convince Democrats that his jump across the political aisle is about more than political ambition. That may be why Crist this week is lending his name-recognition and political pull to Democratic candidates running for office." "Crist making rounds for Democratic candidates".
"Rubio and AFL-CIO clash"
"U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and the head of the AFL-CIO clashed Monday as the Senate Judiciary Committee adopted two amendments dealing with the importation of workers in high tech fields. Rubio applauded the amendments introduced by Se. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. saying they will 'boost American job creation through improvements to the H-1B visa program.' . . . But AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called the amendments job killers for U.S. workers." "Rubio and AFL-CIO clash over immigration bill amendments".
Scott's "Death penalty politics"
Michael Putney: "Death penalty politics in Florida".
"Jeb Bush’s man for mayor" does the perp walk
Fred Grimm: "Credit the wisdom of Miami-Dade voters. They saw through Julio Robaina."
Two years ago, county mayoral candidate Robaina had twice as much money in his campaign account as rival Carlos Gimenez. Robaina had endorsements from Jeb Bush and from Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart and other powerbrokers in South Florida’s political establishment."Last week’s six-count indictment was not a media invention."
And Robaina had a ready retort for his critics. When questions were raised about his peculiar sideline in the private loan business, about his relationship with a convicted Ponzi fraudster and about a rumored federal investigation, Hialeah’s ghost banker simply blamed The Miami Herald. He claimed The Herald “disregards the truth to cast stories with misinformation and erroneous contexts.”
The press, he said, had victimized a victim. “As a victim of a Ponzi scheme, I feel that I’m also being victimized by false media stories.”
Yet the voters rejected Robaina. They spared the county a humiliating scenario two years later that would surely have reverberated across the nation — another perp walk featuring a disgraced South Florida pol.
Thanks to the collective wisdom of the electorate — all 102,445 citizens who voted against Robaina in the run-off election — that was not the county mayor and his wife, shackled at the ankles and wrists, shuffling along in federal custody on Friday.
The self-described victim faces charges that he and wife Raiza evaded income taxes by concealing major transactions in their high-interest money-lending business and that they lied to federal investigators. The feds charged that despite his claims to the contrary, Robaina and his ghost-loan business were entangled with infamous Ponzi artist Luis Felipe Perez, who duped investors out of $45 million. Perez told investigators that Robaina had loaned him $750,000 at 36 percent interest.
Yet the smart money had been on Robaina for county mayor. In the May 24, 2011, election, he led an 11-candidate field, then lost, barely, to Carlos Gimenez in the June 28 runoff with 49.9 percent of the vote. This despite getting support in the runoff from Luther Campbell, the iconoclast rapper who finished fourth in the May 24 election with 11 percent of the vote."On Robaina, Miami-Dade voters got it right".
It had seemed a mysterious, even suspicious political alliance, with Uncle Luke embracing Jeb Bush’s man for mayor. A year later, Campbell was still seething at what he considered unfair media coverage of his new best buddy. “Robaina’s character was assassinated unfairly,” Campbell wrote in the New Times last July, suggesting all this talk of a federal investigation had been contrived by the likes of The Miami Herald to skew the election. “Here we are more than a year later and he is still a free man. The media — and the political hacks who deal in misinformation — lied to the public to make sure he would not win the election.”
Hey Luke, turns out the lying media and savvy voters spared Miami-Dade County from considerable ignominy.
You can call criminal defendant Julio Robaina a lot of things. But not county mayor.
"Tallahassee lacks leaders with long-term vision"
The Tampa Bay Times editors write that "the budget shows once again that Tallahassee lacks leaders with long-term vision. On Monday, Scott boasted about a $300 million increase in funding for the state university system — just a year after leading the charge to cut the same amount even as he backed the outrageous creation of the state's 12th university, Florida Polytechnic, from the University of South Florida's Lakeland campus."
Scott was similarly shortsighted on vetoing the 3 percent tuition increase for college and university students, who currently pay among the lowest in-state tuition in the nation. Scott on Monday argued Florida should be proud it offers cheap tuition but failed to acknowledge that the lost revenue means Florida will continue to spend dramatically less per student than most other states. At many universities, that will mean fewer and bigger classes and more faculty fleeing to higher-paying states. It will also mean many students won't get the courses they need to finish on time. Just one extra semester cancels out any tuition savings from Scott's veto."Most unusual was how the governor tried to extract written promises or concessions from various potential recipients of state money, implying that without them he would veto line-items. He even tried to get state university presidents to sign a form letter that they wouldn't push for tuition increases before the Board of Governors. It was an odd tactic unbecoming the governor and interfered with the responsibilities of the Legislature and the Board of Governors."
Florida heads into 2013-14 with more money but not any better long-term vision for the future."Budget lacks long-term vision". See also "Scott signs budget but vetoes $368 million in spending first", "Florida Gov. Rick Scott signs budget, vetoes $368 million in spending", "Rick Scott Vetoes Go Far and Wide", "Gov. Scott’s $368 million in budget vetoes hits PBSC campus, sheriff's program" and "Governor vetoes $50 million for proposed bike trail along with $27.3 million in water projects".
The Miami Herald editors: "South Florida regaining lost ground".
"Rick Scott Leads Florida Entourage on Trade Mission to Chile".
"Let's try someone from South Florida"
"For 10 years, political pros have taken it almost as gospel that the strongest statewide Democratic candidates are centrists from Florida's top battleground region of Tampa Bay. But 2014 gubernatorial hopeful Nan Rich says that's bunk."
"We tried that three times, and we had three good candidates — we had Jim Davis, Alex Sink and Bill McBride," Rich said Monday, referring to the last three Democratic nominees for governor. "And you know what? We didn't win. So let's try something new. Let's try someone from South Florida.""Democrat Rich says she's ready to take on Scott".
Medicaid managed-care rolled out
"Though critics, including the AARP, say the pilot program for the managed-care plan has had problems, Washington approved the transition and Florida is implementing it to save money in a $21-billion Medicaid program." "Long-term care Medicaid patients start enrolling".
The best they can do?
"Miami-Dade County School Board member Carlos Curbelo has not officially entered the race to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia -- but the Miami Republican is enlisting some of the state's most prominent members of the GOP for his exploratory committee." "Carlos Curbelo Doing the Pre-Season I'm-Running Dance to Challenge Democrat Congressman Garcia".
Manufacturing tax break
"Gov. Scott signs manufacturing tax break into law".
Trib likes their Ricky
The wingers at the Tampa Trib begin the long trudge that will end up with their predictible endorsement of Rick Scott's reelection, no matter who runs against him: think Ricky Scott is doing just fine: "Scott’s evolution as governor".
Scott has picked up "less than 20 percent of the jobs" he promised
"To hear Gov. Rick Scott tell it, his memorable campaign pledge to create 700,000 jobs in seven years is going right along schedule."
The novice politician, almost two and a half years into his first term, says things are looking bright for the Sunshine State as a result of investments in economic development and public education.Politifact points out that "it's premature to sing Scott's praises for fulfilling half of the jobs he promised in the centerpiece of his 2010 campaign."
"We are already almost halfway to our 2010 goal of creating 700,000 new jobs in seven years," Scott wrote in a letter explaining line-item vetoes in the 2013-14 state budget.
This is so
Because Scott told us in a debate and in press accounts that his 700,000 jobs would come on top of Florida's normal growth as it re-added jobs lost during the recession. State economists expected the state to add about 1 million jobs by 2017."PolitiFact: Fact-checking Rick Scott's jobs math".
"It's on top of that," he told a reporter in 2010. "If you do these things, we're going to grow 700,000 more jobs."
So Scott needs about 1.4 million more jobs by 2017 to fulfill his original promise of 1.7 million jobs. Through 28 months in office, the state has added less than 20 percent of the jobs he needs to meet that mark.
"Never Underestimate the Indefatigable Bill Young".
Raschein, R-Key Largo, draws major Democratic opponent
"Rep. Holly Merrill Raschein, R-Key Largo, has drawn a major Democratic opponent as she seeks to defend one of the more competitive seats in the Florida House of Representatives."
Businesswoman and community leader Pamela Gray filed her paperwork Monday to challenge for the House seat, which represents all of Monroe County and parts of Miami-Dade. Filing as a Democrat, Gray had run for the Miami-Dade Commission in 2010, before withdrawing and throwing her support behind another candidate. Gray served as president of the Redlands Citizens Association and served as chairwoman of the Miami-Dade Planning Advisory Board."Rep. Holly Raschein Looks Over Her Shoulder at Dem Challenger Pamela Gray".
"Scott's anti-tax zealotry"
The Tampa Bay Times editors: "When does Florida's self-proclaimed "jobs governor" say no to potentially thousands of new jobs? When those jobs run headlong into a misguided tax stance that discriminates against Florida businesses and workers but helps carpetbaggers."
The defense that Gov. Rick Scott's office provided last week for why the state would not strike a deal with Amazon.com to build a warehouse in Florida is tortured, and underscores once again how Republican leaders' continued refusal to support efforts to modernize sales tax laws to encompass out-of-state Internet retailers is hurting Floridians and their communities."From 'jobs governor,' a job-killing move".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Florida pays price for Scott's anti-tax zealotry".Trigger foes "crow" as wingers whine
"Two weeks after the 2013 Florida Legislature finished its regular session, opponents of Parent Empowerment are still crowing that the bill's defeat represented a victory for 1 million parent activists. There's just one problem: that figure appears to be pulled out of thin air." "Parent Empowerment Foes Inflating Membership".
"Scott backed down"
"The state's largest hospitals were relieved to learn Scott will not spike $65 million aimed at easing the transition to a new Medicaid payment system. In return, hospitals agreed not to ask for more such money next year."
Safety net hospitals lobbied heavily for the extra money, saying a new payment system, known as DRG for diagnosis-related groups, caused massive cuts in Medicaid funding. The House insisted on including transition dollars and the Senate agreed to the $65 million."Scott to veto tuition hike, okay Medicaid transition money".
Scott's office hinted to hospitals last week that he would reject the money and in response they ramped up their lobbying. Those familiar with the governor's rationale said he felt the formula should stand as is, without consideration for winners and losers.
After hearing from hospitals and their advocates, Scott backed down, but not without obtaining concessions from the hospitals that the funding would last for one year. About 20 hospitals sent letters to Scott pledging to reject additional transition dollars next year, many using a form letter.
"Rubio mesmerized more than 700 people at the annual Hillsborough GOP’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner Saturday night with a familiar speech that resonated more strongly than ever amid revelations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups, the U.S. Department of Justice spied on Associated Press reporters, and administration staff carefully calibrated their explanations of the Benghazi attack." "Marco Rubio blames President Obama for latest scandals".
Rubio's "pious fervor" stops when it comes to Karl Rove's abuse of Section 501(c)(4) of the IRS Code
As Rubio "mesmerized" Hillsborough GOP robots about how the poor lil teabaggers being victimized by the IRS, Carl Hiaasen reminds us that the IRS "scandal" is at its core about the abuse of the current "gimmick of choice",
Section 501(c)(4) of the revenue code. Groups receiving that golden designation are allowed to collect unlimited contributions without paying taxes.Hiaasen continues, warning us that
They’re not banned from political involvement, but by law they’re supposed to be “primarily engaged” in activities promoting “social welfare” and “the common good” — not partisan politics.
It’s a total farce.
Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS spent untold millions of dollars on behalf of Republican candidates while attacking Democrats during the last election cycle. On the other side, Priorities USA spent a fortune helping Democratic candidates while trashing Republicans.
Both rabidly partisan organizations enjoy tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(4). They claim to run strictly “issue” advertisements that aren’t really political, which is a hoot.
Congress will hold long hearings, brimming with outrage [about the IRS]."IRS went after small fry, but let the big ones get away".
No such pious fervor exists for investigating and exposing the fraudulent status of large groups like Crossroads GPS and Priorities USA, which collectively take in hundreds of millions of dollars.
They’re not “social welfare” organizations worthy of a tax exemption. They’re wealthy partisan advocacy machines with purely political missions — to promote their candidates, and to influence voters.
They are prized by both parties as safe and bottomless repositories for huge campaign donations, which is why you don’t see congressional leaders declaring war on the 501(c)(4) charade.
The c stands for ca-ching.
"DEP attorneys seek new hearing in permitting case involving employee who testified against bosses".
"The Florida House did the nation a favor by refusing to expand subsidized health insurance to 1 million low-income Floridians, argues Speaker Will Weatherford."
Does the Medicaid expansion drastically raise the deficit? PolitiFact Florida wanted to check it out."PolitiFact: Weatherford overreaches with claim that Medicaid expansion drives deficit".
Weatherford spokesman Ryan Duffy responded to our inquiry with a document that includes a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Christina Corieri, a health care policy analyst at the Goldwater Institute, a free-market research group that opposes the expansion of Medicaid.
Corieri's column does not say that expanding Medicaid as outlined in the health care law will drastically increase the deficit. Instead, Corieri says states have "the unique opportunity to veto hundreds of billions of dollars in new federal spending." She said the nearly 30 states that have either opted out or are considering it could save the government $609 billion over the next eight years.
Raw political courage
"Report: Gov. Scott to veto 3 percent tuition increase". See also "Gov. Rick Scott to veto tuition hike".
Scott "eager to use the death penalty"
"Gov. Rick Scott has accelerated the pace of signing death warrants in Florida by lining up three executions over the next few weeks, the most in such a brief period of time in more than two decades."
Scott and his chief legal adviser say they are doing nothing unusual. But legal experts who oppose the death penalty wonder whether other factors are at work — such as Scott's desire to improve his standing with voters as he seeks re-election next year."Gov. Rick Scott speeding up Florida inmate execution process".
Not since 1989, when an unpopular Gov. Bob Martinez set a record by signing six death warrants in a single day, has a Florida governor been so eager to use the death penalty.
Rubio and "Jeb!" fail to impress in GOPer 2016 sweepstakes
"PPP's monthly look at the 2016 Republican field for President finds essentially a 4 way tie at the top- Marco Rubio has 16%, Jeb Bush and Chris Christie 15% each, and Rand Paul 14%. Paul Ryan at 9%, Ted Cruz at 7%, Rick Santorum at 5%, Bobby Jindal at 3%, and Susana Martinez at 1% round out the potential candidates [PPP] tested."
It's now been almost 6 months since we started doing regular polling of the 2016 race. The only candidate who's shown any real momentum over that period of time is Paul, whose support has doubled from 7% to 14%. Rubio's shift from 18% to 16%, Bush's from 12% to 15%, and Christie's from 14 to 15% are all within the margin of error. It is worth noting though that this is the first time Rubio hasn't held at least a 4 point lead over the other Republican contenders."There hasn't been much movement on the Democratic side either."
Hillary Clinton leads with 63% to 13% for Joe Biden, 4% for Andrew Cuomo, 3% for Mark Warner and Elizabeth Warren, 2% for Martin O'Malley, and 1% each for Kirsten Gillibrand, Deval Patrick, and Brian Schweitzer. Clinton led Biden 61-12 when we started polling on this in December. Clinton has at least 58% support with liberals, moderates, men, women, whites, African Americans, Hispanics, young voters, and seniors- in other words every key segment of the Democratic electorate. "4 way tie for Republicans, Clinton leads Dems". See also "Hillary Clinton and Florida Republicans Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush Lead 2016 National Poll". Related: "Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush Lead Republican Pack in New Hampshire".
What's poor Ricky to do?
"Gov. Rick Scott must soon sign the new state budget, and he's getting intense feedback on all sides: from lawmakers protecting hometown projects, hospitals worried about losing money and a business-backed group criticizing pork-barrel spending." "Gov. Rick Scott holds power with budget veto pen". Related: "TaxWatch "turkeys" draw fire", "Water projects left off Florida TaxWatch's "turkey" list this year" and "Turkey Day: Florida TaxWatch Gives Legislature's Budget Mixed Reviews".
Teabaggers and other assorted wingnuts in a dither
"Local tea party groups say they were targeted by IRS". See also "Meet Florida Conservatives Targeted by Obama's IRS".
What a deal!
"Besides being a state with no personal income tax, one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the country, and a huge tourism and car rental market, Scott and Lee County officials greased the slide with about $85 million in taxpayer incentives. At face value that exceeds the company’s own investment in the move, leaving questions about whether the amount was necessary. In exchange for the public incentives, Hertz will deliver 700 jobs and spend $60 million toward construction of a new building." "Closer Look at Hertz's Golden Deal in the Sunshine State".
Ethics complaints kept under wraps
"Public records exemption complements the sweeping package he signed May 1. It will keep initial complaints to the Ethics Commission under wraps until a determination has been made on their validity." "Gov. Scott signs 2nd ethics law".
Bought and paid for
"The top Five lobbying firms collected more than $1 million from clients during the first three months of this year. Wednesday was the deadline for firms to file reports with the state. More than 100 lobbying firms say they earned more than $500,000 each in the first quarter representing clients before state government." "Lobbying firms cashed in on the session".
Amazon's Florida flop
"Fla. gov. rejects Amazon deal". See also "Amazon Effort to Build in Florida Crumbles".
"A small step forward"
The Tampa Bay Times editors: "For springs restoration, a small step forward".
What's wrong with Hillsborough?
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "The same four Hillsborough County commissioners who shot down domestic partner rights teamed up again Wednesday to reinforce the county's reputation for bigotry. It was a cowardly and self-serving move that is wrong for the times and a wrong read of politics." "Vote reinforces reputation for bigotry".
West won't go away
"Allen West's Gig at FOX News Will Keep Him Politically Alive". See also "Allen West lands job on Fox News".
Castor Dentel draws local hack
"With the 2013 legislative session wrapping up earlier in the month, Republicans are pushing ahead to find a candidate who can defeat freshman Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, D-Maitland, next year -- and it appears they've found their man."
With the 2013 legislative session wrapping up earlier in the month, Republicans are pushing ahead to find a candidate who can defeat freshman Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, D-Maitland, next year -- and it appears they've found their man."Republican Leadership Backs Bob Cortes Against Karen Castor Dentel".
On Wednesday Longwood City Commissioner Bob Cortes, who filed to run in January, is staging the kickoff in his bid for the Republican nomination to challenge Dentel in 2014. Cortes has the support of much of the Republican leadership -- including House Majority Leader Steve Precourt, R-Orlando, and Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger. Other Republican members of the Florida House from the area -- including Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, Rep. David Santiago, R-Deltona, Rep. John Tobia, R-Melbourne Beach, and Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne -- are also backing Cortes.
Rubio rakes in the dollars
"Rubio's financial disclosure shows $800,000 book advance".
Weatherford declares bill "extremely constitutional"
"After Gov. Rick Scott's highly prioritized manufacturing tax cut passed the Florida Legislature without receiving a two-thirds majority of votes, legislative staff analysts have had a change of heart and now believe such a supermajority was not necessary." "State analysts reverse course, say supermajority wasn't needed on tax cut vote".
"Job creators" whine
"Florida Job Creators Give State Mediocre Grade for Small-Business Friendliness".
Nelson won't rule out run for Governor
Scott Powers: "For weeks Florida Democrats have been buzzing about the idea of getting U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson to run for governor in 2014 to challenge the re-election bid of Republican Gov. Rick Scott. And for weeks,Nelson has been saying he has no intention of running for governor."
Yet at the same time, Nelson won't flat-out rule out the possibility that he could be talked into leaving his third term in the U.S. Senate if the Florida Democratic Party really, really, really wants him to run for governor. And he repeated that stance Tuesday during an appearance in Orlando."In an interview with Political Pulse, Nelson sounded like he has no desire to be the Democrats' nominee for governor."
But if the party should conclude he's their best hope of beating Scott?"Bill Nelson: Not planning to run for governor; but not saying no if needed".
"I don't know the answer to your question," Nelson said.
"Included in the fine print"
"A three-judge panel questioned Tuesday why it should wade into a battle over the possible privatization of prison health-care services, with the budget at issue in the change set to expire in several weeks. The 1st District Court of Appeal judges listened to arguments on a ruling in December that prevented the Department of Corrections from contracting out the health services in all but the bottom third of the state. The contract for that part of the state was included in the fine print of the budget for the spending year that ends June 30." "Department of Corrections Delves Into Prison Health Privatization".
On the road again
"After 'victory' lap around state, Scott to travel to Chile".
"With state Rep. Doug Holder, R-Venice, facing term limits next year, Dr. Julio Gonzalez, an orthopedic surgeon from Venice, is off to an impressive head start as he looks to represent parts of Sarasota County." "Republican Hopeful Julio Gonzalez Has Good Head Start to Replace Doug Holder".
"Floridians shouldn't so easily dismiss the hypocrisy"
The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Republican state lawmakers on Tuesday didn't want to talk about 1 million of the state's poor who don't have health insurance."
Or about how Floridians and their health care system inevitably absorb the cost when the uninsured are in crisis. They tried to change the subject when asked at a Suncoast Tiger Bay meeting in St. Petersburg about news reports that juxtaposed Republican House members' generous taxpayer-covered health insurance with their votes to reject federal Medicaid expansion dollars to cover 1 million uninsured — and pump $51 billion into the state economy. Floridians shouldn't so easily dismiss the hypocrisy."Hypocrisy in the House".
"Cowards and simpletons"
Scott Maxwell: "Part of the reason is that we elect cowards and simpletons — politicians unwilling to stand up to extremists and not smart enough to think for themselves."
But another part of the reason for extremism taking root is the media.
We are like gasoline to the fringy flames of foolishness.
We give legitimacy to nonsense, giving equal weight to both the mainstream and the extreme."Florida just clamped down on 'gun rights'".
"Tallahassee needs to be nicer to Republicans, county leader says".
"Mention of Allen West for lieutenant governor launches Dem fundraising appeal".
Good luck with that
The Palm Beach Post editors: "Editorial: Scott should sign bill to keep guns from Florida’s mentally ill".
"What's not to like?"
Nancy Smith: "Want a blatant example of fuzzy math? It's right here with ringing clarity in the outlandish proposed constitutional amendment known as Florida's Land and Legacy."
The Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment (that's its real name) would embed in the Florida Constitution for 20 years 33 percent of net revenues from the existing excise tax on documents."'No' to Budgeting Through the Constitution".
But, hey, no sweat. Eric Draper, executive director of Florida Audubon, promises the people of Florida the amendment will dedicate only 1 percent of the state budget to buying conservation land, no programs will get cut as a result, no one will get hurt, it's all tax free. And, oh yes, all it does is replace the minimum $300 million a year the Florida Forever program provided from 1990 through 2008. What's not to like?
Wingnuts in a dither
"Several Florida activists claim they or their organizations are victims of the IRS' gone-wild, anti-conservative harassment campaign -- citing everything from individual audits to being burdened with probing, invasive questionnaires and being forced to disclose political beliefs, even seeing unpublished web pages unearthed." "Meet Florida Conservatives Targeted by Obama's IRS".
Another dead construction worker
"A worker is dead following a seven-story fall at a South Florida construction site." "Worker dies after 7-story fall".
Hialeah ballot broker
"After having learned that his name appears next to the amount of $1,500 in a notebook kept by an alleged Hialeah ballot broker, lawyer Ricardo Corona said Tuesday that he never hired anyone to collect absentee ballots on his behalf during his unsuccessful campaign for a Miami-Dade judgeship in 2008." "Defeated candidate Ricardo Corona says he never hired ‘boletera’ Deisy Cabrera".