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19 posts from April 24, 2014

April 24, 2014

Senate backs non-citizen's petition to practice law

A closely-divided Florida Senate Thursday championed the unprecedented case of Jose Godinez-Samperio of Largo, a law school graduate who has been denied a law license because he's not a citizen. Hours after senators rejected the idea on a 19-18 vote, they clearly approved it on a voice vote, but a final vote was delayed.

Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, changed his vote from no to yes and said in an interview he was distracted and voted the wrong way by mistake. "I think the kid deserves it. I think he's worked hard," Thrasher said. "I don't think we ought to punish kids who were brought here by their parents."

That's the same argument proponents are using to give discounted in-state college tuition to undocumented immigrant students living in Florida. But opponents said helping Godinez-Samperio was a serious mistake.

Likening Godinez-Samperio to a "lawbreaker," Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, asked: "Does being an American matter any more? ... We are making an illegal citizen an officer of the court."

"If they're here illegally, they need to get in line and do it the right way," said Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla.

All 14 Democrats and seven Republicans debated in favor of Godinez-Samperio or voted yes the first time, enough to pass the bill in the 40-member Senate.

The Senate will send the bill (HB 755) back to the House, where Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has said he would like to find a way to help the would-be lawyer, a graduate of Florida State University law school.

Gov. Rick Scott issued a statement that said "this case demonstrates how broken our federal immigration laws are," but he did not say whether he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk.   

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in March that it cannot admit Godinez-Samperio unless directed by the Legislature, and it called on lawmakers to "remedy the inequities" in the case. Godinez-Samperio's effort to gain Bar admission and become a Tampa Bay immigration lawyer was before the state's high court for more than two years and drew the interest -- and opposition -- of the Obama White House. His volunteer attorney is one of Florida's most prominent lawyers, Talbot (Sandy) D'Alemberte, a former FSU president and American Bar Association president who served as a Democratic legislator in the 1960s, along with his wife and co-counsel, Patsy Palmer.

D'Alemberte has noted that Florida routinely licenses doctors and many other professionals who are not U.S. citizens. He has questioned why lawyers are treated differently, and said he expected to receive strong support in the House.

Godinez-Samperio, 27, is in the U.S. legally but temporarily as a "dreamer" under the 2012 presidential directive known as DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which enabled him to get a Social Security number, work permit and Florida driver's license.

The Senate amendment was sponsored by Sens. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, and David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs. It reads: "Upon certification by the Florida Board of Bar Examiners that an applicant who is an unauthorized immigrant who was brought to this state as a minor and who has been a resident of this state for more than 10 years and has fulfilled all requirements for admission to practice law in this state, the Supreme Court of Florida may admit that applicant as an attorney at law authorized to practice in this state and may direct an order be entered upon the court's records to that effect." The phrase "unauthorized immigrant" was lifted from the Supreme Court's opinion.

Rick Scott's new ad has old claims dissected by PolitiFact

Gov. Rick Scott’s new TV ad attacking rival Charlie Crist includes claims that are quite similar to those evaluated in the past by PolitiFact Florida.

“The numbers tell the story. Florida's unemployment tripled. 800,0000 jobs gone,” the narrator says as “832,000 jobs lost” appears on print on screen. Property values down. Bankruptcies up. More foreclosures than any state. Government went deep in debt. State borrowing at an all time high. Which governor took Florida to the bottom? charlie Crist.....”

In 2012, we fact-checked this claim by Scott: “The four years before I became governor, the state had lost 825,000 jobs. Unemployment had gone from 3.5 percent to 11.1 percent.”  We rated that claim Half True. Scott got the numbers right but he missed the mark for implying the state’s recession was the result of a poor handling by Crist. Florida’s economy tanked largely as a result of the housing market crisis, a tornado of issues over which Crist had little to no control.

Here is PolitiFact’s analysis of a previous claim by Scott about debt under Crist compared to his own tenure.

Miami: land of the ignorant


Idea for immigration reform: A pop quiz to remove the citizenship status of those who can't pass a U.S. citizenship test.

The Immigrant Archive Project, dedicated to telling the story of immigrants, has helpfully identified a few candidates for us. And (surprise, surprise) they just happen to walk the streets of Miami-Dade County. All of us, including every immigrant struggling for citizenship, should be appalled.

How do you not know who the vice president is?

After testing glitch, teachers' union calls for policy changes

Days after a computer glitch forced more than two dozen school districts to suspend online testing, Florida Education Association President Andy Ford asked elected officials to slow down the transition to new accountability measures.

"This may be a vendor fiasco, but the real failure is the high-stakes policy attached to this known problem," Ford wrote in a letter to Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford on Thursday.

Ford noted that the statewide teachers' union -- along with the school boards association, superintendents group and PTA -– had called for a pause as the state deploys new education standards, assessments and accountability systems.

"Lawmakers are discussing modest revisions to Florida’s rupturing accountability system," Ford wrote. "But their legislative fix leaves some elements untouched."

Ford called on the elected officials to provide school systems with the necessary technology. He also demanded the state perform a rigorous independent review of its new assessments, and make a pencil-and-paper option available to all students.

What's more, Ford said, the state should hold off on its new merit-pay system for teachers.

"I hope you will not let the session close without strong action on more than just a vendor failure," he wrote.

What Rick Scott’s 2-month $6.5m ad buy tells us


Gov. Rick Scott released his sixth ad of the campaign today, a negative spot calling attention to how Democrat Charlie Crist “ran away” from Florida by trying to run for Senate when the state’s economy cratered while he served as governor.

The self-described “jobs” governor wants the credit for the good economy and he wants Crist to bear the blame for the bad times. It’s bread-and-butter messaging for Scott (fact check to follow.

Trailing in the polls, Scott has already run two negative ads that bash Crist over Obamacare. Scott has released three positive spots, one of which was in Spanish.

The TV ads’ contents aren’t the only message.

The size of the spend tells us something: more than $5 million since March 12 and at least $6.5 million by May 15. That’s more than any other incumbent governor at this point. It's probably about as much or more than each Cabinet officer spent statewide, on average, on TV. And it’s still April.

The location of the spend also sends a message: the I-4 corridor is of crucial importance to Scott. It’s the swing-area of the swing state.

Exactly 50 percent of the ad buy is reserved in Tampa Bay and the Orlando area.

Tampa Bay has the most Scott money reserved: 29 percent, or $1.9 million. Tampa Bay is Crist country.

Continue reading "What Rick Scott’s 2-month $6.5m ad buy tells us" »

Rasmussen poll: Charlie Crist 45%, Rick Scott 39%.


I keep blogging polls and noting, more often than not, that Gov. Rick Scott will eventually close the gap with Democrat Charlie Crist, in part because of the Republican's mammoth ad buys.

But the polls, except for two outliers, remain stubbornly similar (last post on last batch of polls is here). 

And the latest Rasmussen Reports poll is no different. It shows Crist getting 45% of the likely vote and Scott getting 39%. Libertarian Adrian Wyllie wasn't polled (instead, "some other candidate" was). **UPDATE: Of course, a News Service of Florida poll shows a tie **

The poll's results are surprising for two reasons: 

1) Scott has spent more than $5 million on TV ads since March 12 (And he has reserved more ad time through mid-May, which would total $6.5 million in two months). That should have moved the needle more in Scott's direction.

2) This is Rasmussen, whose results tend to lean more conservative than some other polls. In part, that's the result of technology. Rasmussen uses so-called robo-polling technology that relies on landline voters, who tend to be older and whiter and therefore more Republican or conservative than cell-phone owning voters who tend to be younger and more minority and therefore more Democratic or liberal.

Important note: The poll likely oversampled Democrats and independents (37, 30 percent respectively) and therefore undersampled Republicans (33 percent). If the results were adjusted based on a likely midterm turnout model, where Republicans often match or out-perform Democrats, the topline of the poll would be much closer.

Still, Republicans have been nervous for some time about Scott's "awful" poll numbers. Yes, it's still early. Scott wants to spend $100 million. These poll numbers indicate he'll need to, and this survey is sure to give conservatives, and donors, little comfort.

Here's the write-up from Rasmussen:

Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist leads incumbent GOP Governor Rick Scott by six points in Rasmussen Reports' first look at Florida’s 2014 gubernatorial race.

The latest statewide telephone survey of Likely Florida Voters shows Crist, who served as governor from 2007 to 2011, picking up 45% of the vote to Scott’s 39%. Six percent (6%) prefer some other candidate, while 10% are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

The survey of 750 Likely Voters in Florida was conducted on April 21-22, 2014 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Gov. Rick Scott will sign legislation making killing fetuses a crime


Harming a fetus while committing a crime, no matter how small the embryo, would carry stiffer penalties under a proposed law now awaiting Florida Gov. Rick Scott's signature.

The legislation approved Wednesday by the Senate is modeled after a federal law used to bring charges against John Andrew Welden, the Tampa man who tricked ex-girlfriend Remee Jo Lee into taking an abortion drug that caused her to miscarry a 7-week-old embryo.

Florida would join 23 states that allow offenders to be charged separately for causing the death of a fetus at any stage of development. Under current Florida law, charges can only be brought in the death of fetuses that could have survived outside of the womb and only in cases of vehicular homicide, DUI manslaughter and killing by injury to the mother.

The governor will sign off on HB 59 once it lands on his desk, a spokesman said Wednesday.

"Gov. Scott is pro-life and believes that the lives of unborn children must be protected," John Tupps said. "He looks forward to signing this legislation."

Lee cried after legislators passed the legislation.

Read more here.

Will lack of academic credentials keep Sen. John Thrasher from becoming FSU prez?

Sen. John Thrasher's name may not be mentioned, but he's clearly on the minds of Florida State University stakeholders as the presidential search unfolds.  Several people made comments during Wednesday's search committee meeting that indicated they would not want a politician like Thrasher as the university's next president. However, the firm hired to screen candidates has insisted that a wide net be cast and no potential candidates be discouraged from applying.

Here is more from the FSView and Florida Flambeau:

Despite strong calls from university faculty, students and administrators to choose an academic as Florida State University’s next president, the search firm tasked with recruiting candidates for the position will not limit the pool of presidential hopefuls to those with backgrounds in higher education, the firm’s president told the university’s Presidential Search Committee Wednesday.

In his report to the committee on Wednesday, Bill Funk, the president of the search firm R. William Funk & Associates, said many university leaders expressed a keen interest in hiring an academic as FSU’s next president. But Funk expressed caution in limiting the pool of possible candidates to leaders with academic backgrounds, saying he wants the committee to consider all its options. 

“We didn’t want to prescribe anything in the document that would eliminate anyone from consideration,” Funk said. “We think this search committee should have the opportunity to consider leaders from all walks of life and certainly you can apply your criteria to these candidates once we develop the pool of candidates.”

But prior to Funk’s report, several faculty members commented on the presidential search, all with a common message: The next president should have background in higher education. 

Michael Buchler, an associate professor in FSU’s College of Music, warned against hiring a politician for the presidency, saying that possible political differences could hinder communication with state legislators, a major responsibility of a university president. 

Read more here.

Crist argues he has been consistent on abortion. Really?

As Charlie Crist has been attacked for flip-flopping on an array of issues, he argued during an April 20 TV interview that one topic he has been consistent on is abortion.

While Crist enthusiastically admitted he changed his view on gay marriage and now supports it, he argued with interviewer Michael Williams of WPTV about whether he changed his views on abortion.

Williams: "In the heat of the campaign you were once quoted ‘listen I’m pro-life, I’m pro-gun,’ on and on and on. You changed your view on abortion as well."

Crist: "That’s not true. No. I am pro-life -- by my definition."

Williams: "But you changed your mind on abortion restrictions in the state of Florida. That’s a matter of record...."

Crist: "I am pro-life. And what I mean by that is I am for life. I think most of us are for life. And I think that’s very important to state because even though I am pro-life, which I mean for life, (it) doesn’t mean that I want to tell a woman what to do with her body, and I never have. Even as a Republican governor I vetoed the ultrasound bill on women ... "

Williams: "The ultrasound bill, yes, but on the larger issue in the prior incarnation politically of Charlie Crist, you supported abortion restrictions outside of the ultrasound bill. That's a matter of record. You have changed the nuance or your view there."

Crist: "No, I haven’t. That’s not true."

Turn to PolitiFact for the full story.