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Welcome To Florida Politics

Thanks for visiting. On a daily basis we scan Florida's major daily newspapers for significant Florida political news and punditry. We also review the editorial pages and political columnists/pundits for Florida political commentary. The papers we review include: the Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Naples News, Sarasota Herald Tribune, St Pete Times, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Tallahassee Democrat, and, occasionally, the Florida Times Union; we also review the political news blogs associated with these newspapers.

For each story, column, article or editorial we deem significant, we post at least the headline and link to the piece; the linked headline always appears in quotes. We quote the headline for two reasons: first, to allow researchers looking for the cited piece to find it (if the link has expired) by searching for the original title/headline via a commercial research service. Second, quotation of the original headline permits readers to appreciate the spin from the original piece, as opposed to our spin.

Not that we don't provide spin; we do, and plenty of it. Our perspective appears in post headlines, the subtitles within the post (in bold), and the excerpts from the linked stories we select to quote; we also occasionally provide other links and commentary about certain stories. While our bias should be immediately apparent to any reader, we nevertheless attempt to link to every article, column or editorial about Florida politics in every major online Florida newspaper.


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Previous Articles by Derek Newton: Ten Things Fox on Line 1 Stem Cells are Intelligent Design Katrina Spin No Can't Win Perhaps the Most Important Race Senate Outlook The Nelson Thing Deep, Dark Secret Smart Boy Bringing Guns to a Knife Fight Playing to our Strength  

The Blog for Thursday, July 24, 2014

So much for Jeb's "favorite son" status

    Quinnipiac University Poll released this morning: "Florida voters back Clinton over Bush 49 - 42 percent in the 2016 White House race. "
    The Democrat tops other Republicans by wider margins:

  1. 53 - 39 percent over Rubio;
  2. 53 - 37 percent over Paul;
  3. 54 - 33 percent over Christie;
  4. 51 - 38 percent over U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

    Independent voters back Clinton over Bush by a narrow 45 - 41 percent. Against other Republicans, her lead among independent voters is 16 to 20 percentage points. Clinton's lead among women runs from 56 - 36 percent over Bush to 61 - 28 percent over Christie.

    Florida voters give Clinton a 58 - 38 percent favorability rating, compared to 48 - 37 percent for Bush, 43 - 35 percent for Rubio, 32 - 28 percent for Paul, 35 - 36 percent for Christie and 33 - 30 percent for Ryan.

    "Secretary Clinton leads the Republicans against whom she is matched by double digits with the exception of former Gov. Bush who trails her by 7 points," [Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll] said. "Inside the Beltway they may be talking about Mrs. Clinton's potential weaknesses should she run in 2016. But at this point in Florida, the nation's largest presidential swing state, her assets overwhelm any vulnerabilities."

  5. "Rubio Narrows GOP Gap As Jeb Bush Sags (From July 17 - 21, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,251 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points.)"

    Meanwhile, "Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton Exchange Shots as Both Look Ahead to 2016."

    Libertarian candidate brings down Crist's numbers

    Marc Caputo"Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist are essentially tied 37-39 percent in Florida’s hotly contested governor’s race, partly because a little-known Libertarian candidate is sapping support from the Democratic challenger, a new poll indicates."

    Libertarian Adrian Wyllie pulls 9 percent support, according to Quinnipiac University’s survey, which shows Crist’s 2 percentage-point lead would grow to 5 points without Wyllie on the ballot.
    "The close race between the frontrunners is a marked improvement for the unpopular Scott since Quinnipiac’s last April survey. The results also underscore the power of the Republican’s mammoth $18 million ad campaign, which has damaged Crist and boosted Scott."
    [Moreover,] the underlying trends in Quinnipiac’s polling since April favor Scott:

    • Strong leadership. By 54-38 percent, voters say Scott is a strong leader compared to Crist’s 49-43 percent. That’s close to the opposite of the April findings. Scott’s index has moved 11 percentage points in the governor’s favor, Crist’s index has moved 12 points to his detriment.

    • Truthfulness. Crist took a notable hit in appearing honest and trustworthy. His -9 index (39-48 percent) is down from a +2 index in April. That’s a net 11-point shift. Scott’s index is about the same.

    • Favorability. Only 40 percent have a favorable impression of Scott and 45 percent an unfavorable impression. But his -5 favorability index is an all-time high and a 2-point improvement since April. Crist’s 40-42 percentage favorability spread is an all-time low; a -2 index that represents a 9-point shift to his detriment.

    • Job approval. Scott’s anemic 43-48 percent job-approval numbers is his best ever. The -5 index represents a 3-point shift in his favor since April.

    • Compassion and caring. Does Crist care about voters? More say no than yes now. His index is -3, a 9-point shift against him. Scott’s index is worse: -11. But that’s an improvement from -17. Crist is seen as more compassionate than Scott by 12 percentage points, but the spread is 3 points smaller than it was in April.

    • Head-to-head lead. Leaving out Wyllie, Crist’s 5-point lead of 45-40 percent has been cut exactly in half from his 10-point, 48-38 percentage lead he had in April.

    "The poll sheds no light on Crist’s decision Thursday to name Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chairwoman Annette Taddeo to his ticket."
    Another poll, conducted by SurveyUSA for Tampa-based WFLA-TV and released Tuesday, indicated Crist might have picked up support, however.
    "Poll: Libertarian Adrian Wyllie helps Gov. Rick Scott catch Charlie Crist." Details of the Quinnipiac Poll: "July 23, 2014 - Unknown Libertarian Confuses Florida Gov Race, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Voters Don't Trust Scott Or Crist."

    Related: "Marc Caputo: Numbers favor Rick Scott, despite troubles." See also "Charlie Crist, Rick Scott Locked Tight in New Q-Poll as Adrian Wyllie Factors In" and "Adrian Wyllie a Factor in Florida Governor's Race, But Can He Be a Contender?."

    Fair Districts group ask judge to re-draw maps and push back election

    "On the eve of a hearing in which a judge is set to decide whether to allow congressional elections with unconstitutional maps to go forward this year, the groups that sued to block the plan are asking him to re-draw the maps and push back the election." "Fair Districts group proposes to break up Corrine Brown's district, threatens further legal action." See also "Florida judge must decide whether to delay map fix."

    Attack Ads

    Kevin Derby: "Charlie Crist, Republicans Exchange Attacks in TV Ads."

    Crist will get millions in campaign cash to counter his big-pocketed opponent

    "The former governor will get millions in campaign cash under the state’s public campaign financing program created to help low-budget candidates counter big-pocketed opponents." "Charlie Crist about to get millions in campaign subsidy."

    "Conservatives Place Their Bets"

    Kevin Derby: "On Monday, freshman U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., announced he was backing attorney and Republican activist Paul Renner in the primary to replace state Rep. Dan Davis, R-Jacksonville, who is leaving the House to focus on running the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. In his endorsement, DeSantis stressed Renner’s service in the Navy." "Conservatives Place Their Bets in Jacksonville House Race."

    What Walmart Wants . . .

    Fabiola Santiago: "Florida has a fragile ecosystem in desperate need of conscientious stewards."

    That’s why it’s so hard to understand how the University of Miami’s leadership could have thought it was a good idea to sell to a developer a 135-acre site that includes a unique habitat for endangered plants and animals — one that only exists in this tract between two national parks in south Miami-Dade and in the Bahamas.

    But, preposterous as it sounds, UM has sold for $22.1 million the tract of pine rockland off Coral Reef Drive and Southwest 127th Avenue to a Palm Beach County developer, Ram Realty Services, known for building dense shopping and housing projects.

    The developer plans to add to the already crowded, sensitive area 900 apartments plus a Walmart, an LA Fitness Center, and Chik-fil-A and Chili’s restaurants. . . .

    [I]f a leading educational institution isn’t sensitive to the environmental plight of this state, then who is? If an educational institution chooses to participate in the rampant over-development of this state to the detriment of the conservation of a unique and endangered ecosystem, who’s left to inspire others to care?

    Government hasn’t been a responsible steward, and in this case, neither were UM President Donna Shalala and UM’s Board of Trustees, made up of influential Miamians.

    "UM wrong in sale of fragile land"

    "Scott had stake in pipeline firm whose $3 billion venture he and his appointees backed"

    "Upon his election in 2010, Gov. Rick Scott’s transition team included a Florida Power & Light executive who pitched his company’s plan to build a major natural gas pipeline in North Florida to fuel a new generation of gas-fired power plants in places like Port Everglades. What wasn’t publicly known in 2013, however, was that the governor owned a stake in Spectra Energy, the Houston company chosen by Florida Power & Light that July to build and operate the $3 billion pipeline. Sabal Trail Transmission LLC is a joint venture of Spectra Energy and FPL’s parent, NextEra Energy." "Gov. Scott had stake in pipeline firm whose $3 billion venture he and his appointees backed."

    "Per-pupil spending is still about $189 below the historic levels of 2007"

    Aaron Deslatte thinks you should "know this: Crist bumped up school funding to record levels early in his term, then cut it as the economy crumbled; Scott, meanwhile, slashed $1.4 billion from schools his freshman year in office, and has gradually added money back since then. Today, total spending on education is bigger than ever, but that's because the school system has grown. Per-pupil spending -- which adjusts for student-population -- is still about $189 below the historic levels of 2007." "New Crist ad, same misleading education claims."

    Florida versus NY. Really?

    "Florida’s top finance official, CFO Jeff Atwater, is accusing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of running a deceptive TV ad campaign designed to lure businesses to the Empire State."

    “We know a huckster when we see one,” Atwater, who dashed off a letter about his concerns, told the New York Post about the Cuomo administration’s $113 million TV and radio “START-UP NY” ads in Florida and other states that promote New York's business climate and tourism.

    Cuomo’s office fired back, saying Atwater was misconstruing the incentives that the ad campaign is promoting.

    “For a CFO, he must be pretty bad at math if he doesn’t understand that the zero in StartUp’s zero-tax zones means no state taxes for new businesses,” Cuomo spokesman Matthew Wing said in an email response.

    In his July 18 letter, Atwater says the ads contain “glaring errors and misstatements” about New York as a place to work. And Atwater needles the number of New Yorkers who have moved to low-tax Florida, a job-creation leader.

    "From ‘huckster’ riff to math dis, Florida CFO Jeff Atwater and N.Y. Gov. Cuomo have war of words."

    Labor relations, Florida style

    "A week after a former employee and union official testified before congress about problems at the Veterans Benefits Administration St. Petersburg Regional Office, management installed a surveillance camera outside the office of the union representing employees. On Tuesday, that union, the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1594, filed [an unfair labor practice charge], saying it was an attempt by management to create a chilling effect on union activities." "St. Pete VA center camera riles union."

    Reality of amendment 1 in the eyes of the Legislature

    "Amendment 1 on the November ballot sounds like a godsend for green groups. If passed, the constitutional question could steer $700 million or more to conservation projects next year, and more than $1.3 billion annually within two decades. But the reality of the amendment may be in the eyes of the Legislature, which would have broad authority to decide what types of projects could qualify for the money." "Amendment aims cash at conservation efforts."

The Blog for Monday, July 21, 2014

"Crist has serious trouble on his hands"

    Marc Caputo believes Charlie "Crist has serious trouble on his hands."
    And beyond the horse-race headlines and the tragi-comic TV images of an odd-gazing Scott murmuring poll-tested platitudes (“I’m against discrimination”), Scott has numerous advantages.

    “One number should worry you: $70 million.

    "Scott has a number of other numbers on his side:"
    Campaign cash: Personal wealth aside, Scott’s campaign and political committees have raised almost $24 million and spent $22 million since Crist entered the race in November. . . .

    Government cash: Crist presided over a bust of an economy. Scott governed at the boom. . . .

    Polls: Scott led by an inside-the-error-margin amount of 2 percentage points in the most recent poll, released July 3 by Tampa’s WFLA by SurveyUSA. Scott’s 45-43 percent lead is a net change in his favor of 7 points since April, when the same pollster showed Scott trailing Crist 41-46 percent. Other polls in late spring also showed Scott gaining.

    Ads: Scott’s improved standing owes much to his TV ads. They basically buy votes in a state as big as Florida. About the time of SurveyUSA’s poll, Scott had run $14 million in ads and had paid for about $1 million more to run by month’s end. Compared to Scott’s $15 million, Crist had spent nothing until he announced his first ad after the July 4 holiday . . .

    Voters: Active registered Republican voters are closing the gap with Democrats, who outnumber the GOP by about 39-35 percent. . . .

    Race: Non-Hispanic whites are the most-consistent voters. And they form the base of the Florida GOP. Republican rolls are 84 percent white in a state where they comprise 78 percent of the population. . . .

    The economy: Friday brought news that the state added 37,400 private-sector jobs in a month. Under Scott, the state has added more than 620,000 private-sector jobs, compared to the nearly 820,000 private-sector jobs lost during Crist’s term, which ended 2010. The unemployment rate is 6.2 percent, compared to a peak of 11.4 percent under Crist in 2010.

    "Yes, Scott has flip-flopped on the figuring of his figures.

    "He’s now taking credit for every single private-sector job created (he originally said the 700,000 would be on top of forecast job growth). And yes, governors also have a limited impact on Florida’s economy, which is tethered in great part to the nation’s." Much more: "Numbers favor Rick Scott, despite troubles."

    Republicans have spent $16.1M to Dems $3M in governor’s race

    "Through the last week of July, Republicans have spent $16.1 million on television advertisements as part of the governor’s race versus the Democrats’ $3 million, according to an analysis of television ad buys in the governor’s race obtained by the Scripps/Tribune Capitol Bureau." "Scott campaign dominating TV in governor’s race."

    "Cascading impacts"

    Tom Tryon thinks "the potential harm of changing two districts at this late stage, and the subsequent cascading impacts, would outweigh the benefits of requiring the districts to be redrawn now." "Fixing Florida's redistricting."

    SD 12

    "The race for Florida Senate District 12 pits two longtime Democratic rivals against each other: incumbent Geraldine Thompson and former state Sen. Gary Siplin." "State Senate race features longtime rivals."

    Election-year complaints tossed

    "A flurry of election-year complaints contending that the two leading candidates for governor are flouting Florida's campaign finance laws are getting tossed out."

    The [GOP] complaints contended Crist got an illegal campaign contribution because he appeared on billboards and in television ads paid by the Morgan & Morgan law firm that included Crist. Crist joined the firm after losing his bid for the U.S. Senate in 2010. He is now running for governor as a Democrat.

    [The Dem] complaints maintained that the Scott campaign broke the law when it transferred nearly $27.4 million from one type of campaign account to another. Shortly after the money transfer Let's Get to Work started paying for television ads that have largely criticized Crist.

    "Complaints against Crist and Scott thrown out."

    Slow news day

    Nancy Smith: "Shouldn't Annette Taddeo Have to Explain 537 Consulting LLC?"

    Really? Rich

    Without a hint of evidence, Florida Congressman Rich "Nugent appeared on [the radio] in Ocala on Monday and offered his take on the border crisis, saying a 'lot of these children' are 'gang members' and 'gang-affiliated.'" "Rich Nugent Avoids a Firestorm on Immigration."

    "Bondi appeals to protect Florida's sacred right to discriminate"

    Gary Stein: "Now that Florida is on the verge of actually doing something sensible and just, the hysterical griping will be getting louder. Much louder."

    It is going to happen. Count on it. In state after state, courts have overturned same-sex marriage bans like Florida's, declaring them unconstitutional. Florida will become the 20th state to legalize gay marriage, even as Attorney General Pam Bondi appeals to protect Florida's sacred right to discriminate.
    "End of Florida ban won't end whining."

    The Orlando Sentinel's George Diaz asks, "Ms. Bondi, since you're the moral arbiter in our lives, how do you reconcile your 'traditional values' against the personal reality of two divorces and an unofficial (nonbinding) ceremony in the Cayman Islands in 2012?"

    "Should Democrats shun opportunism, stick to its values and lose with honor?"

    Jac Wilder VerSteeg: "Former state Sen. Nan Rich, a true blue Democrat, expresses in just a few words the reason she and not Charlie Crist should be her party's choice to face Gov. Rick Scott in November:"

    "We need to make sure we don't have two Republicans running in the gubernatorial election," she told the Sun Sentinel's Rosemary Goudreau during the recent meeting of the Florida Press Association and Florida Society of Newspaper Editors.

    Any unbiased review of their records will confirm Rich has been a steady advocate of Democratic causes and Crist — Republican, Independent, Democrat — has been relentlessly opportunistic. Democrats are poised to choose him over Rich in the August primary for one reason. They think he can beat Scott and Rich can't.

    If the party wants to be honorable, honest and true to its principles, Democrats will nominate Rich. But if it wants to have a shot at turning Scott out of office, it will have to choose Crist. So Democrats must wrestle with a basic question of political philosophy: Should the party shun opportunism, stick to its values and lose with honor?

    The short answer is: No.

    The long answer is: Hell no.

    "Although a Democratic governor would be unlikely to have much influence over the Legislature, the governor can fill judicial vacancies — including Supreme Court vacancies — by appointment. Legislative approval is not necessary. Charlie Crist might not be a Democrat through and through, but Democrats surely would be happier with his judicial appointments than with Gov. Scott's appointees." "Rich is better Democrat, but Crist has better chance."

    Gay Divorce

    "While a Monroe County judge’s ruling is giving hope to many Florida gay couples who want to marry, lawyers think the decision might bolster the case of a couple in Tampa who are trying to divorce." "Gay marriage ruling may help pair divorce."

The Blog for Sunday, July 20, 2014

"Spanking the entire gang of Republican rock-throwers"

    Scott Maxwell: "Florida legislators think you're an idiot."
    That is why — after being caught breaking the law and gerrymandering political districts — they are asking for permission to draw them again.

    Don't be an idiot.

    And I mean that with all due respect to hizzoner, Judge Terry Lewis — the guy who will decide what do to with Florida's blatantly gerrymandered districts.

    Florida legislators already hoped Judge Lewis would be an idiot once.

    They were sorely disappointed.

    "Lewis' ruling was the equivalent of bare-bottom spanking for the entire gang of Republican rock-throwers."
    Lewis used phrases such as "cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men."

    He said some of the operatives involved "made a mockery of the Legislature's proclaimed open and transparent process." And he said the entire case "goes to the very foundation of our representative democracy."

    Basically, Lewis said what anyone with one good eye already knew: that the zigzagging, racially unbalanced congressional districts were a politically rigged farce.

    The ruling was particularly amusing because GOP legislators had taken the stand with dramatically feigned indignation about how their honor and dignity were on the line.

    They went so far as to say the only way the judge could rule against them was to accuse the entire legislative leadership team of being a bunch of liars — that "every single witness, including two speakers of the House ... lied under oath …."

    Um, OK, the judge essentially said with his ruling that you're all a bunch of liars.

    "Special elections, punishment needed in redistricting scandal."

    Counties have latitude setting early voting dates

    "Florida lawmakers gave counties latitude in setting dates for early voting, and election superintendents took full advantage. The state’s elections website says early voting is Aug. 16 to 23 for the Aug. 26 primary. But it adds that 'each county Supervisor of Elections may, at his or her own discretion, offer additional days of early voting.'" "Early voting dates can vary county to county."

    Sentenced to Life as Juveniles

    "The Florida Supreme Court has asked attorneys how a new state law might affect cases dealing with inmates who were sentenced to long prison terms for committing murders or other major crimes when they were juveniles." "Florida Supreme Court Seeks Clarity on Inmates Sentenced to Life in Prison as Juveniles."

    HD 64

    "Another candidate’s late entry means incumbent state Rep. Jamie Grant now has a Republican primary fight. Miriam Steinberg, a Tampa engineer and political newcomer, filed during the June qualifying week and will be on the August ballot for House District 64. With the entry also last month of a write-in candidate, the primary will be closed to all but Republican-registered voters. " "Engineer faces District 64 incumbent."

    "Crist’s pick for No. 2 gets respect"

    "The Miami-Dade County Republican Party leader quickly summed up the opposition’s greatest strength."

    “The best asset that the Miami-Dade Democratic Party has is Annette Taddeo,” Nelson Diaz, chair of the local GOP, said during a spring good-government seminar arranged by the Miami Dade College faculty union.

    “As the Democrat [sic] chair, she’s very involved,” he said. “She worked hard to organize and mobilize the left wing of her party — which is now the party’s base — making them more of a presence. She made us work harder.”

    Now, Taddeo has a much bigger role in state politics: running mate for Democrat Charlie Crist, who tapped her on Thursday to become the first female Hispanic lieutenant governor if the ticket can knock off Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

    "Even among opponents, Charlie Crist’s pick for No. 2, AnnetteTaddeo, gets respect."

    Scott has an idea: "Jobs for the Next Generation"

    "Florida Gov. Rick Scott is pledging to permanently eliminate manufacturing equipment sales taxes and create new incentives to encourage more science and engineering graduates. Scott plans to highlight his 'Jobs for the Next Generation' proposals during campaign stops over the next two weeks." "Florida Gov. to highlight job creation proposals."

    Political Pusillanimity

    "Jeb Bush, Rubio lay low on border crisis."

    "Scott’s either clueless, or lying"

    Carl Hiaasen, writes "Here’s a really clever idea:"

    Let’s run express passenger trains 16 times round-trip every day between downtown Miami and the Orlando airport. That’s right, the airport.

    Except the trains won’t go straight there, but will stop first in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, then head up the seaboard to Cocoa and hang a hard left 40 miles west across the middle of the state.

    Oh, and the trip will take at least three hours one way.

    Leaving aside the fact that you can inexpensively drive from downtown Miami to the Orlando airport in about the same time (or fly commercially in only 42 minutes), the project grandly known as All Aboard Florida raises other elementary questions.

    Like, “Why?”

    "As it waddles down the tracks, this turkey enjoys the robust blessing of the Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott, who said the following to a reporter last month:"
    “It’s all funding that will be provided by somebody other than the state. It’s a private company.”

    Scott’s either clueless, or lying. All Aboard Florida is a future train-wreck for taxpayers. With the possible exception of the Hogwarts Express, passenger rail services almost always lose money and end up subsidized by government. . . .

    Only three short years ago, playing the tea party scrooge, Scott killed a proposed high-speed train project between Orlando and Tampa. In rejecting about $2 billion in federal funds, the governor asserted that Florida taxpayers would have ended up paying to operate the rail service once it was finished. He was right.

    Now he’s yodeling a different tune, perhaps because his latest chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, formerly worked for one of the companies connected to All Aboard Florida. (When a reporter asked Scott if he’d talked to Hollingsworth about the project, he didn’t answer.)

    "Florida taxpayers about to be railroaded."

    New questions about whether Jeb will run

    "Former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R) joined with a team of bankers to create a private equity investment firm, a development that raises new questions about whether he will run for president in 2016."

    The news comes as Bush is viewed as a potential frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president in 2016. Polls show him running well in key states and many Republicans view him as party's strongest possible nominee. . . .

    The private equity industry became a focal point in the 2012 campaign. Democrats repeatedly painted Republican nominee Mitt Romney's private equity career in a negative light, in an effort to portray him as out of touch with the concerns of ordinary Americans. If Bush runs for president in 2016, he could face similar attacks.

    "Jeb Bush created private equity firm."

The Blog for Saturday, July 19, 2014

As National Job Picture Improves, Florida Fails to Keep Pace

    Florida continues to benefit from Obama's national job recovery: Florida's "unemployment rate dipped slightly to 6.2 percent — down from May's reading of 6.3 percent — and the state added 37,400 jobs."

    However, "the U.S. unemployment rate for June was 6.1 percent."

    Before June, Florida's jobless rate had been equal to or lower than the national rate for 13 months in a row. Nationally, the number of jobs is up about 1.8 percent during the past 12 months.
    "State unemployment rate ticks down to 6.2 percent."

    To be fair, Obama’s jobs recovery, as in Florida, has been a relatively low-wage jobs recovery.

    Scott Claims Credit for Tiny Unemployment Drop, But Is Unable to Explain What He's Done

    Rick Scott takes credit for Florida's June unemployment rate of 6.2 percent, notwithstanding the fact that Florida's rate has fallen behind and is worse than the U.S. unemployment rate of 6.1 percent." Consistent with Scott's inability to answer questions, and explain precisely what he has done to keep pace with national trends, it appears that he has done little more than "Being There" while the Obama economic recovery takes root. See generally "Rick Scott's nonanswers bring national ridicule."

    Rick Scott "insults everyone's intelligence"

    Aaron Deslatte: "News flash: Gov. Rick Scott doesn't answer questions."

    Yes, it's media-driven sound and fury, but when a governor can turn an oxymoron into a national cable-news debacle with CNN's Anderson Cooper claiming he "insults everyone's intelligence," voters deserve an explanation.
    "Scott's nonanswers are the 'in your face' variety. His public-relations staff has tried to soften him — losing the tie, holding news conferences in his office instead of behind a podium, workdays in a doughnut shop and restaurants."
    His discipline in staying on script is impressive. But television turns hard-nosed obstinacies that may be assets in corporate negotiations into cringe-worthy YouTube curiosities.

    Dodging one question is an art form. Dodging the same question repeatedly for 60 seconds is a bad week. And in the heat of a high-stakes campaign, it produces a positive-feedback loop.

    Instead of talking about gay marriage, medical marijuana, giving tax dollars to an Orlando-to-Miami rail company or alleged prisoner abuses, he's fielding questions about not answering questions.

    "Oh, gosh, I answer questions," he told the throng of TV cameras in Tampa this week. In Orlando, he was asked again about the law-enforcement snafu and blamed Crist for "mudslinging."

    Meanwhile, Crist tapped a Miami-Dade County Democratic chairwoman for a running mate — Annette Taddeo — in a county the party comfortably carried in 2010. The decision smacks of confidence. Scott looks like he's worried about making media missteps, which is often when they blow up on CNN.

    "The art of avoiding questions in a gubernatorial race."

    Easy target

    "The two men hoping to take on Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi this November have sharp criticism for the way she handled her first term in office. George Sheldon and Perry Thurston both say they could do a better job. Before they get to take on Bondi directly, one has to get past the other during next month’s Democratic primary." "Democrats vie to take on Bondi."

    Shilling hard

    Jeff Henderson shills hard for the Scott campaign today, arguing that "Charlie Crist hoped to get some positive attention by announcing Annette Taddeo as his running mate but his move was overshadowed by other events, some of which don’t help his campaign." "Charlie Crist's Gamble on Annette Taddeo Didn't Get Instant Payoff."

    Scott outspending Crist on television advertisements at a five-to-one clip

    "Through the last week of July, Republicans have spent $16.1 million on television advertisements as part of the governor’s race versus the Democrats’ $3 million, according to an analysis of television ad buys in the governor’s race obtained by the Scripps/Tribune Capitol Bureau." "Scott campaign dominating TV in governor’s race."

    Atlas shrugs

    "With weeks left before the August 26 primary, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson is once again raising campaign cash far faster than anyone else running in any of six Central Florida Congressional races – and is spending it far faster than anyone else too, according to the latest federal campaign finance reports."

    Grayson, the Orlando Democrat incumbent congressman in District 9, which covers Osceola, most of east Orange and part of north Polk, reported raising $1.8 million in contributions through June 30. That is nearly double anyone else running in the six congressional districts that cover all or parts of Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Lake, Brevard and Volusia counties.
    "Yet Grayson also reported, to the Federal Election Commission, that he spent $1.2 million campaigning, even though he faces only token opposition in the August 26 primaries."
    Grayson’s district features a hotly-contested Republican primary, with three candidates who have been campaigning against one another for more than a year, mostly by taking shots at Grayson. Carol Platt of St. Cloud remained on top financially with $253,000 in contributions. Jorge Bonilla of Orlando raised $212,000. Peter Vivaldi of Windermere raised about $40,000. Democrat Nick Ruiz, who entered in April to challenge Grayson in the primary, reported raising $19,000.
    "Grayson leads in cash campaign in Central Florida Congressional races."

    Scott running low on wingnuts

    "Scott has rejected six nominees for two spots on the Palm Beach Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission [including] two black women." "Gov. Scott rejects 6 for judicial nominating panel, more applicants sought."

    Negron fears federal loan

    The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "A powerful state senator from the Treasure Coast has jumped onto the region’s growing bandwagon opposing All Aboard Florida, the private long-distance passenger rail that plans to transport travelers between Miami and Orlando. But not — he says — because of the fears of traffic jams or inconvenienced boaters or the specter of environmental Armageddon that so many residents conjure."

    The supposed source of Sen. Joe Negron’s concerns? That the service might be created with help from a federal loan.
    "Concern over All Aboard Florida loan sounds more like cover."

    Environmentalists react swiftly

    "Elected officials and environmentalists in Florida reacted swiftly to the federal government’s decision Friday to reopen the Eastern Seaboard to offshore oil exploration using sonic cannons to find deepwater energy reserves." "Florida officials oppose reopening of offshore oil exploration."

    Bits and Pieces

    Kevin Derby: "Political Bits and Pieces." See also "Arrivals and Departures, July 18, 2014" and "Weekly Roundup: It's All About the Appeal."

    Simply unable to get over it

    "A Florida judge ruled that because the employer mandate was delayed, and not canceled, the compliance costs [Dr.] Kawa incurred in preparing his business to meet the requirements of the mandate did not amount to an unlawful taking -- even if he may have wasted significant resources. The same mandate would apply just one year later, the judge’s reasoning went." "Florida Orthodontist Braces for Oral Arguments in Obamacare Lawsuit."

    TeaBaggers in a Dither: "Millennials Are More Liberal and Less Conservative"

    This very recent libertarian poll [.pdf]shows that "Millennials Are More Liberal and Less Conservative than Americans over 30."

The Blog for Friday, July 18, 2014

Crist Names Running Mate

    William March: "In an unusually early announcement, likely Democratic nominee for governor Charlie Crist has named Miami businesswoman and Democratic fundraiser Annette Taddeo as his running mate."
    Taddeo, of Colombian and Italian heritage, symbolizes the battle between Democrats and Republicans over the increasingly important Hispanic vote. Gov. Rick Scott last year chose Carlos Lopez-Cantera as the state’s first Hispanic lieutenant governor and his 2014 running mate.

    Taddeo could also help Crist appeal to women voters, now 54 percent of the state electorate, and provide a South Florida ally against former state Sen. Nan Rich of Weston, who’s challenging Crist in a Democratic primary in six weeks. . . .

    In 2008, Taddeo ran unsuccessfully against Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in a Republican-leaning district. She ran unsuccessfully for a Miami-Dade county commissioner’s seat in 2010 — a race with a crowded field of candidates that was won, she said, by a tea party-style candidate.

    "Crist names Hispanic businesswoman Taddeo as running mate." See also "Charlie Crist turns to South Florida for running mate."

    Feds intrude on Walmart's "freedom" to trash rare endangered wildlife habitat

    "A developer building a Walmart on a tract of disappearing forest between two national parks in south Miami-Dade County should stop all work until a survey of endangered wildlife is completed, federal officials warned this week."

    In a strongly worded letter sent to Ram Realty Services, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said at least eight threatened species, including the federally protected Florida bonneted bat and two endangered plants, could inhabit about 140 acres of pine rockland north of Zoo Miami off Coral Reef Drive. . . .

    Just two percent remain of about 165,000 acres of pine rocklands that once stretched from Homestead to the Miami River on an upland ridge. The rare rocklands occur in just two places in the world — Miami-Dade County and the Bahamas — and provide habitat for a host of animals, insects and plants found no place else on earth.

    "Feds ask developer to stop work on Walmart in rare Miami-Dade forest."

    Dominoes Begin to Fall: Monroe County Judge Overturns Marriage Ban

    "A judge ruled that gays can marry in Florida’s most gay-friendly county, siding Thursday with same-sex couples in the Florida Keys who challenged a voter-approved ban as discriminatory. But an immediate state appeal quickly silenced their wedding bells." "Ruling allows same-sex marriages for Florida Keys."

    See also "Ruling allows same-sex marriages for Florida Keys," "Judge declares Florida's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional," "Monroe County Judge Overturns Same-Sex Marriage Ban" and "Judge’s ruling on gay marriage celebrated in Tampa."

    Threats to fire employees if Obama won fall by the wayside

    You remember the creepy "CEO who built himself America's largest house [yet] threatened to fire his employees if obama's elected." Scott Maxwell brings us up to date: "Congratulations to time-share magnate David Siegel, who seems to have mounted quite the comeback."

    In the past few weeks alone, Siegel has made headlines for buying a football team, the Cocoa Beach pier — even a big new casino in Las Vegas.

    Nicely done, David! It's all especially impressive, considering you told us that, if Barack Obama were re-elected, you might have to abandon your business — maybe even leave the country.

    You remember that, right? It was in 2012 when you made national news for telling your employees that, before they voted, they should know that re-electing Obama might cost them their jobs.

    You were sure Obama was bringing new taxes your way. And if he were re-elected, you told your workers: "My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed and with it, so will your opportunities."

    "If that happens, you can find me in the Caribbean sitting on the beach, under a palm tree, retired and with no employees to worry about."

    Yet, miracle of miracles, you somehow manage to not only stay in this great country and keep your doors open, but even buy an Arena Football League team!

    "Take that, Obama! Time-share king David Siegel thrives."

    "Proudly claiming he was a geek"

    Jeff Henderson: "All of a sudden, [Ted Yoho's primary opponent, Jake Rush, an attorney who served as a deputy for the Alachua County sheriff’s office] went from contender to pretender against Yoho. After the news about Rush's role-playing -- and more importantly the photos -- went public in April, all momentum was sucked out of his campaign. Rush never quite knew what to do about how to handle the negative publicity. Sometimes, Rush embraced it, proudly claiming he was a geek and even appearing on Stephen Colbert’s show to weigh in on it. Other times, Rush said the Yoho camp was behind it as a dirty trick." "Move Over, Buffy! Ted Yoho Looks Like a Vampire Slayer."

    Ethics attacks in SoFla

    Kevin Derby: "Attacks Surround Ethics in South Florida Congressional Race."

    Stop the presses! Dems putting their money where their mouth is

    "At their annual fundraiser in Hollywood less than a month ago, Florida Democrats heard an earful from former President Bill Clinton about the importance of getting the party faithful -- who historically have been lackluster when it comes to voting in midterm elections -- to the polls."

    Now, national Democrats are putting their money where their mouth is.
    "Backroom Briefing: Dems Try to Get Voters Out, Hold Court."

    "The world discovers what Florida already knows"

    Steve Bousquet: "Rick Scott, who ditched his adopted rescue dog Reagan after the 2010 election, and who invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 75 times in a deposition, once again finds himself all over the Web and cable as the rest of the world discovers what Florida already knows" about Rick Scott

    He doesn't like to answer questions.

    Name a subject, and Scott won't address it.

    Climate change. Problems with the state's jobless claims website. How a sex offender slipped through the cracks and got a state license as a massage therapist. Amendment 1, the land and water proposal on the November ballot.

    Scott might well revise his campaign slogan to "Let's Keep Working at Obfuscation."

    "His dilemma is that being ridiculed by national media outlets probably is not a surefire path to re-election. When networks use a big-state governor as a pinata, they're also making fun of the voters who put him in office and perhaps planting seeds of doubt in their minds."
    Scott made CNN's "RidicuList," as Anderson Cooper said Scott's evasiveness "insults everybody's intelligence."

    MSNBC, with its endless fascination for Florida politics, awarded him a place in its "Canned Response Repetition Hall of Fame."

    Both channels ran the same video clip of Scott, eyes open wide, a frozen smile fixed on his face, dodging Tampa TV reporters asking why uniformed, on-duty sheriff's deputies were at a Tampa event promoting his re-election last week. It is illegal for public employees to engage in such activity, and illegal for anyone to coerce them into doing it.

    "I'm very proud that last week, police chiefs endorsed me," Scott said earnestly, totally ignoring the question. "I'm very proud that 40 sheriffs have endorsed me."

    That's a campaign commercial, not a serious reply.

    With his very next breath, Scott said: "So we invite them to our campaign events and I'm very appreciative of the ones that came."

    There it is: Scott said his campaign invites on-duty cops to campaign events that they should not attend.

    "Rick Scott's nonanswers bring national ridicule."

    GOPers have private meeting with Scott’s education advisor, talk about it at school board meeting

    "Members of the Flagler County Republican Club had a private meeting Wednesday with Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s education advisor, Kim McDougal, regarding the new national academic measures known as the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The date and time of the meeting at the governor’s campaign headquarters in Palm Coast, which was closed to the media, was mentioned by Flagler School Board Chairman Andy Dance during Tuesday night’s board meeting." "Flagler GOP club has closed meeting with governor’s education advisor."

    Do Scott apologists really want to talk Nigeria?

    Nancy Smith says, "Hey, Charlie, Introduce Us to Your Nigerian Friend." She "writes,

    Charlie Crist's donors get stranger and stranger. The latest is Onajite Okoloko.

    He makes Steve Mostyn -- the Houston trial lawyer-cum-fly-boy who donated $600,000 to support Charlie three states away -- look downright common-garden variety.

    Onajite Okoloko, 48, is a Nigerian oil executive turned fertilizer manufacturer who has suddenly "emerged" as one of Charlie's biggest donors.

    Does Nancy really want to inject Nigeria into any conversation about Florida politics?

    Remember Jeb's Nigerian connection?

    Just in time for the latest round of Jeb for Prez speculation, the juiciest scandal tied to Florida's former governor is headed back to court. The courts are revisiting a two-decades old charge that a company Bush cofounded spent millions bribing Nigerian officials with federally loaned money to secure a lucrative deal selling water pumps in the African nation.
    "Jeb Bush's Nigerian Bribery Scandal Is Back in Court."

The Blog for Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gaetz and Weatherford "losing lawsuit becomes no worse than winning"

    "Forcing lawmakers to re-draw the maps now would require calling a special session, then allowing another candidate-qualifying period. Nonetheless, League of Women Voters lawyer David King said that was a better alternative that asking voters to cast ballots within invalidated congressional districts. . . . Lewis didn't decide on the question and set another hearing for next Thursday so both sides could prepare arguments." "Redistricting sides jostle over whether to redraw congressional lines now."

    Fred Grimm: "It’s as if you spotted someone cruising around in the family sedan that had been swiped from your driveway. Sorry, the thief says, but he can’t return the car just now. Maybe in 2016."

    Sooner than that would cause nothing but “chaos and confusion.”

    Except, it wasn’t a car that was stolen. Just a fair election.

    The very legislative leadership that allowed political “consultants and operatives” to flout the Florida Constitution and hijack the congressional redistricting process told a judge Tuesday that they’d eventually “enact a remedial plan consistent with this Court’s judgment.”

    But not until after the 2014 elections.

    "Last week, Judge Lewis ruled that Republican Party operatives had been allowed to “infiltrate and influence” the 2012 redistricting process and subvert the Legislature’s constitutional mandate. 'They made a mockery of the Legislature's proclaimed transparent and open process of redistricting by doing all of this in the shadow of that process . . . going to great lengths to conceal from the public their plan and their participation in it,' Lewis wrote."
    The judge said the consultants “managed to taint the redistricting process and the resulting map with improper partisan intent. There is just too much circumstantial evidence of it, too many coincidences, for me to conclude otherwise.”

    House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz indicated in a motion filed Tuesday that they won’t appeal the decision. Instead they’ll just dawdle, arguing that they can’t fix the gerrymandered districts now “without irreparable damage.” So losing the lawsuit becomes no worse than winning.

    "Winning lawsuit over redistricting is as bad as losing."

    "Happy to meet"

    "Gov. Rick Scott said today his administration would be 'happy to meet' with 10 scientists from Florida universities who want to talk about climate change, a subject he has been reluctant to address."

    This, even though

    Scott, who is running for re-election, has worked to dismantle climate change initiatives put into place by his predecessor and current opponent, Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist.

    Florida’s other top Republicans, including possible 2016 presidential candidates U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush, also have challenged climate science.

    "Scott says he’ll meet scientists on climate change."

    Allen West calls for impeachment

    "Former U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., who has left the door open to a political comeback in 2016, made the case to impeach Obama on Tuesday." "Allen West and Alan Grayson Clash on Impeaching Obama."

    Scott may "follow Jolly’s game plan"

    Jeff Henderson writes that, "if Scott’s team wants to keep Crist busy in his own backyard [Pinellas County], they should follow Jolly’s gameplan with strong research and a great ground game. An underdog at the start of the year when Republicans were pining for Jack Latvala, Will Weatherford and other candidates to get in against Sink, Jolly just might turn out to be the Florida GOP’s MVP for 2014." "David Jolly Could Be Florida GOP's MVP for 2014".

    Tampa Caught With Hand in the Federal Cookie Jar

    "The Tampa City Council will be asked this morning to approve repayment of more than $560,000 the city received from the federal government after Hurricane Frances a decade ago." "FEMA wants $560K back from Tampa for storm."

    Road to Dems winning winds through Sunshine State

    "According to the Democratic leader in the U.S. House, the road to her party winning back control of the chamber winds through the Sunshine State. In an interview published on Wednesday, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., offered her take on Democratic chances to flip the U.S. House in November -- and said it comes down to Florida." "Nancy Pelosi Bets on Florida Redistricting to Win Congress." See also "Nancy Pelosi’s goal is to win 25 seats. Here’s how she thinks it can happen."

    Florida ranks last in the nation in per-person Obamacare funding

    "Florida ranks last in the country in per-person funding from the Affordable Care Act, a new study shows, and that doesn’t even include the billions of dollars the state is forfeiting by saying no to Medicaid expansion."

    The Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation at the University of Michigan performed the analysis of ACA grant totals between the time the law was signed in March 2010 and the end of September 2013.

    Judging by the grant totals of other states, Florida appears to have forfeited at least $100 million and possibly $300 million or more.

    “Florida is 51st in per capita funding, last among all the states and the District of Columbia,” said Josh Fangmeier, health policy analyst at the Center. In a study released by the same group a year ago, Florida had been 48th.

    Over the study period, the average nationwide funding per person was $47.67, the Center’s charts show. By contrast, Florida’s per-capita funding was just $18.04.

    "Florida Inverse: 2nd Highest Level of Uninsured, Dead Last in Affordable Care Grants."

    FEA sues to block runaway voucher legislation

    "The state teachers union filed a challenge to a controversial education law Wednesday, saying it violates a constitutional requirement that each law be limited to a single subject."

    Gov. Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 850 last month over loud objections from the union, parent groups, the NAACP and the League of Women Voters.

    Among other things, the law expands the school voucher program and creates new scholarships for children with profound disabilities. The scholarships, which can be used for private tutoring, educational materials and various types of therapies, are being rolled out this week.

    The lawsuit from the Florida Education Association takes aim at the way SB 850 became law. Some of the bill’s more contentious provisions, including the voucher expansion and the scholarship accounts, started out as stand-alone proposals that met resistance in the Legislature. They were combined into a sweeping education bill on the second-to-last day of the legislative session, giving lawmakers little time to review the proposal and citizens virtually no chance to weigh in.

    In its final form, the 140-page bill also addressed career education, collegiate high schools, dropout prevention, hazing and middle-school reform.

    "The school voucher program has been controversial since its debut in 2002. The program provides private-school scholarships to children from low-income families. It is funded by businesses, which receive a dollar-for-dollar corporate tax credit in exchange for their donation."
    This year, lawmakers expanded the program by creating partial scholarships for children from higher-income families. They also raised the amount of the scholarship beginning in 2016-17.

    The union, which has about 140,000 members, opposed the measure, saying it would take money from public schools. Leaders began mulling over a legal challenge as soon as session ended, McCall said.

    FEA Attorney Ron Meyer said that the union had “grave concerns about the constitutionality of the tax credit [scholarship] program and the damage potentially being done in these unregulated, unaccountable schools.”

    "Florida teachers union files legal challenge to voucher expansion law." See also "Teachers union sues over how school voucher bill passed" and "Florida Teachers Union Files Lawsuit Over Controversial Voucher Bill."

    "Liberal credentials"

    Kevin Derby: "With less than six weeks to go, the two Democrats looking to topple Gov. Rick Scott are trying to reach out to primary voters by stressing their liberal credentials." "Charlie Crist and Nan Rich Go Left for Primary Votes."

The Blog for Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Jeb's education record may come under fiercest attack from his own party

    "One of Jeb Bush’s biggest [claimed] accomplishments is his work to improve Florida’s public schools -- and that record may come under fiercest attack from his own party if he enters the Republican 2016 presidential primary." "Jeb Bush Draws Tea Party Ire Touting Education Record."

    As explained by Jac Wilder VerSteeg in the Sun Sentinel over the weekend,

    Former Gov. Bush enjoys a national reputation as an education reformer — a neat trick considering the terrible harm he has inflicted on public education. Although the Legislature and succeeding Republican governors share responsibility, Jeb is mostly to blame for the bad things that followed his 1999 arrival in office.

    Jeb is a godfather of bogus high-stakes testing. Way back in 1999, he started using the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test to assign grades to schools. Nothing about that grading system was valid. Yet then-Gov. Bush claimed it was "accountability."

    Things have only gotten worse in subsequent years. Schools and teachers have been labeled as "failing" by a test that was not even administered to large numbers of their students. The Legislature and Gov. Scott decided high-stakes tests should be used to decide if a teacher should be kept or fired. Never mind that there is no formula or algorithm that can reliably tell which teachers are good and which are bad.

    "Jeb's legacy as governor taking a huge hit."

    Desperate in PBC

    "Attempting to make inroads with a Democratic-leaning voting bloc, the Palm Beach County Republican Party is reaching out to the gay and lesbian community. Chairwoman Anita Mitchell hopes gays and lesbians will see the Republican Party as something other than an intolerant entity hostile to their interests." "Republican leader seeks support from gays and lesbians."

    "Crist trying to change the topic"

    Jeff Henderson: "Caught in the polls by Rick Scott and behind in the money chase, Charlie Crist and his supporters in the mainstream media are trying to change the topic from the new Democrat’s underwhelming performance so far in the campaign. In recent days, the media have started playing the guessing game of who will be named as Crist’s running mate." "Charlie Crist Not in Any Rush to Name Running Mate."

    "Graham is stressing she is a political outsider"

    Kevin Derby: "Democratic congressional candidate Gwen Graham is drawing fire from the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) for going after Washington, even as she follows a game plan honed by national Democrats and used by their candidates across the nation."

    Graham, the daughter of Bob Graham, who served three terms in the U.S. Senate and two terms as governor, is running against U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla. Despite serving as an aide to her father and two Democratic presidential candidates in the 2004 election cycle, then-U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and former Gov. Howard Dean, D-Vt.. Graham is stressing she is a political outsider.
    "NRCC: Nancy Pelosi's Fingerprints All Over Gwen Graham's Campaign."

    The proxy campaign for Governor

    "Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan said he has pledges of up to $6 million — not including his own substantial checkbook — to back a proposed constitutional amendment going before voters in November that would allow doctors to order marijuana for patients with debilitating illnesses."

    Renewed support from Morgan — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist’s boss and close friend — comes as opponents of the measure, aided by Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate and supporter of Republican Gov. Rick Scott, double down on efforts to kill it.
    "Morgan: Backers pledge $6 million for pot campaign."

    "Democrats shouldn't get too giddy"

    Ledyard King: "Most Democrats are cheering the Florida Circuit Court's judge ruling Thursday throwing out the congressional district map drawn by the GOP-controlled Legislature."

    But at least one expert who studies congressional races says Democrats shouldn't get too giddy, even if it helps put the Orlando-area seat — now held by Republican Daniel Webster — back into play.

    David Wasserman, who monitors House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said there are several reasons why not much might change in a state where Republicans control 17 of the state's 27 congressional seats.

    First, there's little time to take advantage of the ruling in this fall's elections, largely because the filing deadline for candidates has passed. In addition, the Florida Legislature is expected to appeal the ruling, further delaying any remedy.

    Second, any changes to the map might affect Webster and Jacksonville Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown, but maybe only marginally, and probably no one else.

    And third, even redrawing the districts would not tremendously help Democrats whose voters are generally concentrated in the state's urban corridors. The decidedly GOP District 8 seat held by Republican Bill Posey of Rockledge, for example, probably wouldn't change parties even if the boundaries were adjusted.

    "New district map may not be a game-changer."

    This analysis of the Cook Report piece by King, of Gannett's Washington Bureau, overlooks that Wasserman's analysis, was limited to the 2014 races. This is plain from the headline to Wasserman's piece, "Florida Redistricting Ruling Unlikely to Alter 2014 Math" (subscription required). No one has claimed that the decision - which will no doubt be stayed pending appeal - will have any bearing on 2014, except as a talking point; rather, the impact on the shape of the districts, which could be substantial, obviously pertains only to 2016 and beyond.

    Absentee Ballots: New Rules

    "Voting by mail has soared in popularity among Floridians in the past decade, but new restrictions are leading some advocates to warn that some people may miss voting this year because of new rules." Two key points:

    • College students and snowbirds. People who want their ballots sent to addresses other than what's on file with the county elections office will no longer be able make the request online or over the phone. The request now must be made in writing.

    “The group that is going to be most affected by it is, of course, students. There’s no two ways about it,” said Pamela Goodman of Palm Beach Gardens, first vice president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “Down here in southeastern Florida where we have so many snowbirds, they won’t even know. They will expect their ballot to come to them and they won’t even know. It’s going to affect their turnout.” . . .

    • Expiration of standing requests. The law governing how long vote-by-mail request remains valid has changed several times. Currently, it lasts for two big general elections. So people who signed up before the 2010 governor's election won't receive absentee ballots for the 2014 primary and general election unless they reapply.

    In January, the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office sent notices to all voters whose absentee ballot requests were expiring. “We didn’t get a lot of response,” Bucher said.

    "There is some risk [if you vote by absentee ballot], however. There's a small chance that an absentee ballot won't be counted."
    The signatures of people who send in absentee ballots are scrutinized and compared with the person's voter registration form. If the signature doesn't match, the ballot isn't counted.

    It can make a difference. A 2012 state Senate contest in Palm Beach County was decided by 17 votes — and 40 absentee ballots weren't counted because signatures didn't match.

    Snipes, who had her staffers trained in handwriting analysis last week, said it's natural that people's signatures change as they age, especially if they develop medical conditions. Bucher said young people change their signatures "very often."

    People can – and should – contact the elections office to update their signatures on file if they've changed since they first registered to vote, Snipes said.

    Other absentee ballots aren't counted because people forget to sign them entirely. But a new provision of state law, effective for 2014 elections, allows people to get signatures attached to their absentee ballot envelopes if they forget to sign them.

    The [new] law requires the elections offices to monitor non-signatures and allow people who forget to sign to mail in an affidavit with a signature that will be attached to the ballot envelope.

    In 2012, Bucher said, about 200 Palm Beach County absentee ballots weren’t counted because there were no signatures. She didn’t have figures for the number of ballots that weren’t counted because their signatures didn’t match.

    The Palm Beach County elections office will have a feature on its website allowing people to check the status of their absentee ballots. Bucher also said she expects candidates to get in touch with voters whose ballots don’t have signatures because they’ll want potential supporters to have their votes count.

    In 2012, Cooney said, 861 Broward ballots were weren't counted because they weren't signed, a number she termed "disappointingly high." Another 33 were rejected because the signatures on the ballots didn't match those on file.

    The Broward elections office will send an affidavit form to every voter who submits an absentee ballot without a signature, Cooney said. "It is not automatically rejected anymore."

    "Voters love casting ballots by mail, but red tape can prove challenging."