Friday, August 29, 2014

No Stay For You

The suits against the ban on marriage equality in Florida get to move up the appeals chain.

From Jonathan Kendall at Riptide:

[T]he Third District Court of Appeal in Miami denied a motion by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to freeze the marriage equality cases in Miami-Dade and Monroe County from advancing through the court system.

“The Third District Court denied her the motion to stay briefings, which was seen as a delaying tactic to slow or stop the case for marriage equality from going forward in Florida,” said Mark Ebenhoch, the media director for Aaron Huntsman and William “Lee” Jones, one of the South Florida couples challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The judges also consolidated both the Pareto case in Miami-Dade and the Huntsman case in Monroe County, since both lawsuits similarly challenge the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. This means the six couples and the Equality Florida Institute in the Pareto case will advance through the litigation process with Aaron Huntsman and William “Lee” Jones from Key West as a united force.

[...]

If the Third District Court of Appeal passes the case to the Florida Supreme Court, it will be following in suit of yesterday’s decision by the Second District Court of Appeal in Lakeland to send to matter directly to the highest court in Florida to settle whether the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional.

The timing couldn’t be worse for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who is running for re-election in November.  So far she and the anti-marriage equality crowd have lost in every case, and keeping them in the headlines rather than ignoring them until after the election only reminds people, including folks who show up in videos like the one below, that she’s a loser.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Election Results

I voted in the Florida primary yesterday.  The polling place is in the parish hall of a local church, so I parked and walked across the parking lot, through the throngs of campaign workers handing out cards and leaflets, and I was swarmed by candidates.  I haven’t had that much attention since I did mail-call at camp.

I was approached by the incumbent county commission candidate who has a reputation as being very conservative.  She was all smiles until I asked her about her stand on marriage equality. The smile became fixed and she replied that it wasn’t her issue.  “Sure it is,” I replied.  “I live in this county. You’re making decisions about my life. I want to know where you stand on it.”  She responded with something along the lines of Ralph Kramden’s “Hamana-hamana-hamana-hamana….” and then “It’s not my issue” again.  “I am pro-life,” she offered. I said, “Okay, that’s got nothing to do with marriage equality.” More hamana-hamana, until she finally came up with “Live and let live, I don’t care what other people do.”  “So,” I said, “If the courts overturned the ban on same-sex marriage, you’d have no problem with that?”  Shrug.  “Not my issue.”

Hm.  According to SAVE Dade, the local marriage-equality organization, she’s virulently anti-marriage-equality. I smiled politely, said “Thanks,” and proceeded to the polling station.  I voted for the other candidate.

Yes, it is a legitimate question to ask every candidate in every race.  If they don’t believe in my fundamental right to marry whom I wish regardless of genitalia, then I’m a second-class citizen to them, and they have no business controlling my government.

By the way, she lost.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Primary Day

It’s primary day in Florida.  Yip yah; that means the polling and the junk mail are over for a week or so.

The attention of this election will be on the governor’s race, although it’s already pretty much a study in foregone conclusions.  Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor now running as a Democrat, will beat former state senator Nan Rich because of name recognition and the notoriety and novelty of Mr. Crist being a party switcher.  He will take on the man who succeeded him, Rick Scott.

The other race that is drawing attention in the Miami area is the race for County Commission being waged between incumbent Lynda Bell and Daniella Levine Cava.  For a local race it’s been generating a lot of direct mail and negative TV ads, especially from Ms. Bell, a right-winger of the first order.

There are also the usual local issues, including one in the city of Miami as to whether or not to approve a deal that would build a 1,000 foot tower in downtown that resembles a giant nail clipper.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Passing The Buck

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi really doesn’t want to be on the losing end of the various marriage equality cases that are being handed down, so she’s waiting for the the U.S. Supreme Court to make the call.

“Neither this Court nor the Florida Supreme Court can decide this federal issue with finality,” Bondi wrote to the state’s 3rd District Court of Appeal. “The United States Supreme Court, however, ‘has the final word on the United States Constitution.’”

Bondi told the appeals court she expects the U.S. Supreme Court will act soon on the gay marriage issue. She cited filings this week from the states of Utah and Oklahoma asking their gay-marriage cases be heard by the nation’s highest court.

“A ruling from the United States Supreme Court would end the constitutional debate, end this appeal, and end all related cases,” Bondi wrote. “The State of Florida will respect the United States Supreme Court’s final word. In the meantime, this Court should preserve taxpayer and judicial resources by staying briefing until the United States Supreme Court rules.”

Lawyers for eight same-sex couples, who last month won the right to marry in Monroe and Miami-Dade counties, say they want the cases heard as soon as possible at the Florida Supreme Court.

This, of course, is a total cop out.  The ban is a Florida state constitutional amendment, not a federal law, so the Florida courts should decide it.  Besides, isn’t the Republican mantra always “states’ rights”?  That’s what they told us about abortion and that the Supreme Court overstepped its bounds with Roe v. Wade.  Now that the tide is turning toward marriage equality, she wants to pass the buck to SCOTUS and then say that while she is anti-marriage equality (hint hint running for another term), it isn’t her call anymore.

She also knows that waiting for SCOTUS to decide will mean they won’t hand down a ruling before November, which avoids the whole issue of it landing on her desk while she’s trying to convince the hard-core base that she really is worth re-electing.  Huh.  If she was really that hard-core, she’d go full-tilt for it and prove her Tea Party bona fides instead of letting the feds do it.

HT to Bob.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Winning The Unpopular Vote

It seems that if the election for Florida governor were held today, the voters would rather chose a Burmese python than either Rick Scott or Charlie Crist.

Via FiveThirtyEight:

Both Crist and Scott hold negative net favorable ratings (the percentage of people with a favorable view minus the percentage with a negative view). No other gubernatorial campaign in the country currently features such bipartisan disdain. Thirteen races for governor have had at least one live interview poll that asked about candidate images since the beginning of May. Among the candidates in those races, the average net favorable rating is just over +10 percentage points, compared to the -4 points in Florida.

Yippee.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Anything But That

Florida Gov. Rick Scott would rather talk about anything other than marriage equality.  Via Marc Caputo:

“Nobody wants discrimination in our state,” Scott said in Bonita Springs, adding that he believes “in traditional marriage” and citizens’ access to the courts.

Gay-rights groups say the same-sex marriage ban discriminates against them, but the ban’s backers say their votes are being discriminated against by judicial activism.

So what discrimination is Scott against? Scott won’t say.

“Aren’t you trying to have it both ways?” WPLG’s Michael Putney asked Scott Friday in Miami.“People have different view about it our state,” Scott replied. “But in 2008, the voters decided that this state would be a traditional marriage state. It’s going through the court system. But what’s important to me is I don’t want anybody discriminated against.”

Putney: Aren’t gays being discriminated against?

Scott: “I’m against any discrimination. But in 2008, the voters decided this would be a traditional marriage state.”

Putney: “Are you…”

Scott (cutting him off): “Let’s talk about jobs – 37,000 jobs in a month! It’s the biggest jump! Michael! Michael! This is our biggest month since I got elected,” Scott said. “We’re over 620,000 jobs [created]. When I ran in 2010, I said seven steps to 700,000 jobs over seven years. And a lot of people questioned whether we could do that…. We’re at 620,000. What’s so exciting is 37,000 a month. I mean I just still think about my dad, watching his face when the only car we had got repossessed. That’s what I want to help with.”

That’s become his stock answer for everything.  Ask any question — what about climate change, redistricting, education funding, or the main ingredient in tomato soup — and you get “Jobs!  Look at all the jobs!”  It’s like he’s stuck in a feedback loop.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Monday, June 16, 2014

Papers, Please

It requires less documentation to get a United States passport than it does to renew your driver’s license in Florida.

Here’s what you need to get a passport:

Passport Docs 06-16-14

That and a photo and $135 and you can travel the world… or Windsor, Ontario.

Here’s what you need to renew your drivers license in Florida:

Florida License Docs 06-16-14

Proof of citizenship includes a government-issued birth certificate, a valid U.S. passport or naturalization papers, plus your original Social Security card, and proof of residential address such as recent utility bills or mortgage receipts.

Gee, I wonder why that is.  The usual excuse is that these heightened requirements were put in place to prevent terrorists from getting false documents and doing evil things.  Except that the State Department rules are pretty much the same as they were when I got my first passport in 1971, and Florida waited until 2009 to change the rules, including adding the proof of residency and citizenship.  (When I got my first Florida license in 2002, all I did was turn in my old one from New Mexico.)

So what happened in 2009 that made the Florida legislature become such hard-asses about letting people have the privilege of getting stuck on the Palmetto Expressway?  Any thoughts?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

An Expert On Marriage

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi claims that same-sex marriage is equivalent to a plague.

The attorney general of Florida says in court documents that recognizing same sex marriages performed in other states would “impose significant public harm.”

Eight gay couples and the American Civil Liberties Union have sued the state in federal court. The lawsuit argues Florida is discriminating against the couples by not recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal.

Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed a response that asks a federal judge to throw out the lawsuit.

Bondi’s office says the state has a legitimate interest in defining a marriage as between a man and woman because Florida’s voters adopted an amendment in 2008 that banned same-sex marriages.

I would be interested in hearing exactly why Ms. Bondi thinks a legal contract between two people represents “significant public harm.”  Based on the fact that she has been married three times, I assume she’s an expert on it.

HT to Riptide.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Property Rights

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) had an old idea a while back.

When he was on the campaign trail in 2012, Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) suggested that only property owners should be allowed to vote.

Yoho made the suggestion when he was running for Congress. The comments were flagged by Right Wing Watch on Tuesday.

“I’ve had some radical ideas about voting and it’s probably not a good time to tell them, but you used to have to be a property owner to vote,” Yoho said at a speaking event at the Berean Baptist Church in Ocala, Florida. The crowd responded with applause.

To his credit, he didn’t say anything — out loud — about bringing back the 3/5 rule.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Charlie Crist States The Obvious

From Fusion via C&L:

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (D) said Tuesday that a “big reason” why he left the Republican Party was because many in the GOP were hostile to President Obama due to his race.

Crist, who is running for his old office against Gov. Rick Scott (R), said in an interview with Fusion’s Jorge Ramos that he felt uncomfortable with his previous party affiliation. Republicans are perceived as “anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-minority, [and] anti-gay,” he said, and they refuse to compromise with Obama. The ex-governor said he feels, “liberated as a Democrat.”

“I couldn’t be consistent with myself and my core beliefs, and stay with a party that was so unfriendly toward the African-American president, I’ll just go there,” he said. “I was a Republican and I saw the activists and what they were doing, it was intolerable to me.”

I’ll probably end up voting for Charlie Crist, but even if I agree with his view that there’s the subtext of elegant racism permeating the GOP, I can’t help but feel that Mr. Crist is a flaming bit of an opportunist.

Friday, May 2, 2014

One Million Floridians

Despite the best efforts of Gov. Rick Scott and the right-wing noise machine, nearly 1 million people in Florida signed up for Obamacare.  Via New Times:

The Department of Health and Human Services announced today that 983,775 Floridians signed up for Obamacare plans. That’s the second-highest number of any state behind only California.

Meanwhile, California had set up its own healthcare marketplace. Floridians had to rely on the initially glitchy HealthCare.gov website because Rick Scott and the Florida government declined to set up their own exchange.

“More than 983,775 Floridians signed up through the marketplace, demonstrating brisk demand for quality, affordable coverage,” said Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of health and human services.

More than half of those Florida enrollments came in March, just before the sign-up deadline. That surge was in thanks part to health care activists reaching out to the uninsured in the final month.

Thirty-one percent of Floridians to sign up were under 35, which Seblius touted as a sign that younger, healthier enrollees have take advantage of the act.

Nearly 91 percent of Floridians who signed up also received some sort of assistance to pay for their plans through things like tax credits.

The Republicans will claim that HHS is cooking the books and the numbers are skewed, but denial is the toughest phase to get through.

Someone’s going to have to explain to me how getting all these people to get decent health insurance is a bad thing.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

They Like It

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) went looking for some easy pickings about complaints about Obamacare at a senior center in South Florida the other day… but it went horribly wrong for him.

The 20 seniors assembled for a roundtable with Scott at the Volen Center were largely content with their Medicare coverage and didn’t have negative stories to recount.

And some praised Obamacare – a program that Scott frequently criticizes.

“I’m completely satisfied,” Harvey Eisen, 92, a West Boca resident, told Scott.

Eisen told the governor he wasn’t sure “if, as you say,” there are Obamacare-inspired cuts to Medicare. But even if there are, that would be OK. “I can’t expect that me as a senior citizen are going to get preferential treatment when other programs are also being cut.”

Ruthlyn Rubin, 66, of Boca Raton, told the governor that people who are too young for Medicare need the health coverage they get from Obamacare. If young people don’t have insurance, she said, everyone else ends up paying for their care when they get sick or injured and end up in the hospital.

Whoops.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Failed Drug Test

The Supreme Court isn’t touching Gov. Scott’s attempt to violate the Fourth Amendment.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s petition to review a ruling that his random drug testing policy for state employees is unconstitutional, the latest in a series of legal battles facing the governor.

Gov. Scott is 0 for 2 on the drug testing front:

Scott faced similar defeat Dec. 31, 2013, when a federal judge struck down a law requiring Florida cash welfare recipients to pass a drug test. It could constitute an illegal search and seizure, a judge said.

If the law applied to everyone who received cash welfare — including corporations — the law would never have seen the light of day in the first place.

Friday, April 18, 2014

No Way Out

The Republicans were counting on Obamacare being unpopular as their way to winning the mid-term elections and possibly even the 2016 presidential race.  But if the experience of Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) is any guide, that plan may very well blow up in their faces.

A Florida voter had harsh words for Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) at a town hall Tuesday, admonishing the congressman for his repeated efforts to repeal Obamacare and its bevy of benefits. Ross conceded that his party should have worked to offer an alternative health reform policy to preserve benefits for newly insured Americans.

Noting that Ross and the Republican Party have now voted more than 50 times to repeal Obamacare, the constituent took the Florida GOPer to task. “Why do you think it is so good to deny seniors on Part D to make them pay more, about $4,000 more for medicine, and people with pre-existing conditions get denied insurance, have 26-year-olds have a harder time getting insurance because they can’t get on their parents’?” the voter asked. “Why do you think those are good ideas?”

Despite voting to roll back such protections, Ross said he doesn’t actually think doing so is a good idea. He went on to chastise his own party for not offering any replacement health care bill. “I think one of the most unfortunate things my party did the last three years was not offer an alternative to health care,” Ross said, calling the move “absurd.”

This is what happens when you let the clowns drive the car.  The GOP did nothing but call for repeal of the bill and had nothing to replace it with.  Now they’re stuck with being on the wrong side of both history and an increasing number of people who are finding out that the law is working and that they like it.

Mr. Ross is in the middle: he can’t run away from his party’s record of voting against the bill originally and the fifty times after to repeal it, nor can he switch sides because he’ll most certainly get a primary challenger from the Tea Party if he ever says anything nice about the Kenyan secret Muslim.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Scott Busted For Obamacare Lie

Not really an earth-shattering bit of news, but it’s typical of the campaign for governor down here.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has been called out for two misleading campaign ads that suggest as many as 300,000 Floridians have lost their health insurance coverage through Obamacare, according to The Miami Herald.

On Wednesday Scott deflected questions by reporters about the ads, produced by the Pro-Scott political committee Let’s Get to Work.

“Clearly, the ad’s accurate [sic],” Scott said. He refused to elaborate.

The insurance company that the claim is built around is Florida Blue, which warned last fall that 300,000 of their customers’ insurance plans could be cancelled through Obamacare because those plans didn’t comply with the law.

But Florida Blue told the Herald that, contrary to the ads, 300,000 plans had not been canceled through Obamacare.

“To date, most of the members in our pre-ACA plans have kept their plans,” Florida Blue spokesman Paul Kluding said.

Kluding did say in his statement that some Florida Blue customers decided to drop their old plans because of the better deals offered in new plans they could get under Obamacare.

Aside from the mendacity factor, there’s just something creepy about the ads that have been running for Gov. Scott’s re-election, either from his own campaign or those on his behalf from GOP groups.  It’s a combination of the lies and just his visage that makes people leave the room or grab the remote and switch to a re-run of Castle.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Oops, Gotta Go

Via the Orlando Sentinel:

A telephone press conference featuring Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera was abruptly ended Monday morning after reporters kept asking about the departure of Mike Fernandez from the Gov. Rick Scott re-election campaign, rather than about the new TV commercial the campaign was launching.

Lopez-Cantera took one question on the commercial, then three straight about Fernandez, whom the Miami Herald reported quit the Scott campaign after an incident involving campaign staffers allegedly joking around with Mexican accents.

When a third reporter asked about the issue, he said he was there to talk about the commercial. Then Republican Party of Florida Communications Director Susan Hepworth closed the press conference, saying, “I think that’s all the time we have for today,” ending the press conference after just 17 minutes.

Lopez-Cantera said he believed there was no basis for the allegations reported in the Miami Herald.

On Friday, the Miami Herald reported that Fernandez, a Coral Gables billionaire who was Let’s Get To Work’s campaign finance co-chairman and biggest recent contributor, raised concerns about campaign associates “joking around in over-the-top Mexican accents” during a campaign trip. Fernandez quit the campaign, the Herald reported.

And the outreach continues.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Isn’t That Special

Yes, it’s disappointing that Alex Sink lost in the special election for the late Bill Young’s seat in Congress yesterday, but I don’t think it’s either the great victory the Republicans think it is or the end of the world for Obamacare and harbinger of things to come that some fretful Democrats are sure it is.

First, the district has been in GOP hands for generations.  The fact that President Obama won it by one point in the last election was probably more a sign of people showing up at the polls for a general election than anything else.  The race yesterday was the only thing on the ballot, and turnout for those races is notoriously low.  Even so, Ms. Sink lost by one point, 47% to 48%.  Given that she was up against everyone from the Koch Brothers, Karl Rove, and Bob Barker, it’s impressive she got that close.

The Republicans tried to make this election a referendum on Obamacare; that by campaigning and winning on it here they can carry it to the national election this fall or in 2016.  Yeah, no, I don’t think so.  What may marginally work in Pinellas County, Florida, doesn’t mean it will sell everywhere else; it could crater in places where the numbers of uninsured people are higher.  But they’ll manage to grasp at the straw because they haven’t got a heck of a lot else going for them.

Not only that, the Republicans are far better at turning out their base for an election to vote against someone than the Democrats have ever been.  They can go from zero to Outrage faster than a nitro-burning funny car at a drag strip.

The real casualty in the race is probably the career of Alex Sink who lost a close race for governor to Rick Scott in 2010.  Coming back from oblivion and two losses in a row is not a talent cultivated by Democrats.