Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 5.2.21

“Because we can.”

In a moment of startling arrogance, Republican state Rep. Randy Fine laid bare his party’s attitude toward unity and governance.

It happened during the debate about the $101.5 billion state budget. At issue is a GOP mandate forcing school districts to apply for state grants from the federal American Rescue plan. The money is supposed to go straight to the districts.

State Rep. Susan Valdes of Tampa asked why Republicans did that.

Fine’s smug answer: “Because we can.”

Valdes shook her head and shot back, “I know you did not just do that. That’s not the correct answer.”

Fine smirked.

The Orlando Sentinel captured the exchange. You can see it here.

Fine fired back in an op-ed published by the Sentinel.

“The left didn’t like that very much. The Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board was aghast that we did not simply lay down at the feet of Joe Biden,” he wrote. “They called it ‘breathtaking arrogance’ and emblematic of the legislative approach we have taken this session.

“In fact, it is the Sentinel’s Editorial Board that displays such arrogance in refusing to accept the mandate that Florida voters gave Republicans in 2020.”

However, here’s a point Fine didn’t make. Tallahassee Republicans routinely recoil about Washington mandates but think nothing about overriding local rules they don’t like. It happens all the time.

Speaking of breathtaking arrogance:

Why pass a law that makes it harder to vote, especially for minorities?

“Because we can.”

Why did Gov. Ron DeSantis issue an executive order overriding local regulations about COVID-19?

“Because we can.”

Why refuse cruise ship companies to require proof of COVID-19 vaccinations before sailing out of Florida ports?

“Because we can.”

Why pass an anti-riot law where innocent bystanders could have to sit in jail for days without bail if they get swept up in a police action?

“Because we can.”

Republicans have controlled state government throughout this century, and, yes, elections have consequences. They weren’t always this arrogant and dismissive, though.

Why be that way now?

“Because we can.”


Honorable mention: Alan Abramowitz. After a decade of exemplary service as the Executive Director of the Florida Statewide Guardian Ad Litem Office, Abramowitz accepted the position as CEO of The Arc of Florida.

He starts his new position on June 1.

The Arc of Florida advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Its goal is full inclusion and access to services for people with disabilities.

“Alan is an excellent choice to be the new CEO of The Arc of Florida,” Senate Pro Tempore Aaron Bean said. “He has the respect of people throughout government, including the Legislature.

“He also has the leadership skills and experience to lead The Arc in its mission. Most important is that he has the heart for the critical advocacy and service the organization provides for vulnerable Floridians.”

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: The Tampa Bay Times. Who says newspapers don’t matter?

Despite headwinds from the same financial problems affecting nearly every paper, the Times’ commitment to investigative work continues to make a difference.

In this case, the Times’ stunning expose of policing tactics in Pasco County led to a major change. In an investigation called “Targeted,” the Times reported how Sheriff Chris Nocco used data, including school records, to predict those more likely to commit crimes.

Students with a D or an F in school could wind up on the list, which could be tough to avoid given distance learning during the pandemic.

The result, the Times said, “is an intelligence operation that monitors, intimidates and harasses families across the county.”

In the future, though, that intelligence operation will have less intel.

Officers won’t have access to school district data that forecasts students that might be off-track or at-risk.

Nocco announced his office “voluntarily” ended the collection of such data “to ease any anxiety that parents may have as a result of misinformation perpetuated by media reports.”

Yeah, OK.

The biggest winner: Mothers! The top choice this week is easy.

It’s the woman who gave birth to you. She fed you, washed your clothes, and dried your tears. Mom helped with your homework when she could and drove you to more soccer and baseball games than can be counted.

You’ll never have a bigger fan than mom or anyone who can smooth over the rough edges the way she can.

Today, she also probably works a full-time job — or in some cases, two or three jobs. Maybe she tried to work virtually during the pandemic while helping guide her kids through Zoom classes at school.

Mom is the glue that holds families together.

If she is still here, you’d better do something way nice for her today. If she has passed on, pull out a picture and remember her fondly.

My mom fits the latter category. She passed away in 2002 at the age of 90. A few months before she died, I visited her in Ocala and had a day I’ll never forget.

Mom loved to eat and always asked to stop by one of her favorite restaurants to pick up something for her. On that day, though, she told me not to bother.

I soon found out why. She had prepared a bodacious feast for me of all the things I loved to eat as a growing boy. Mom sat there smiling as I shoveled it down and kept reaching for more.

Only after she died did I figure it out. She wanted to cook for me one more time.

Love you, mom. And when I see you later, please have a pot of soup beans and a pan of cornbread ready.


Dishonorable mention: 4th District Court of Appeal. The Court just issued a ruling that could have a chilling effect on police accountability. The Court 2-1 upheld the arrest in Boynton Beach of a woman in 2009 who used her cellphone to record the arrest of her 19-year-old son.

“In short, she obstructed their investigation and processing of her son’s detention — a lawful execution of their duty,” Judges Melanie G. May and Edward L. Artau wrote.

Judge Martha C. Warner didn’t agree. She wrote that police have no “reasonable” expectation of privacy in public places.

She also held that the ruling could mean “everyone who pulls out a cellphone to record an interaction with police, whether as a bystander, a witness, or a suspect, is committing a crime.”

Tasha Ford, the arrested mother, said her intent in recording the scene was to keep the police honest.

“Well, as you know, I’m Black. And in our community, there are a lot of things that take place,” Ford testified. “And I don’t want to be a victim of those things.

“I thought if I had the camera, everyone would be honest and truthful.”

Instead, she wound up in jail and the Court issued a goofy ruling.

The almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Broward and Palm Beach County voters. They will go without a representative in the U.S. House until after a special election on Jan. 22, 2022. The winner will fill the CD 20 seat left open by the death of longtime Congressman Alcee Hastings.

The District is heavily Democratic, which likely explains why DeSantis is in no hurry to fill the seat. Democrats held only a 218-212 edge in the House before Hastings died on April 6 after a long bout with pancreatic cancer.

“I know there will be a lot of folks who want to run for it, so hopefully that gives them enough time to get on the ballot and do what they need to do to be competitive,” DeSantis said in the Miami Herald.

The Herald reported that the prolonged vacancy puts the District at a serious disadvantage.

The House and Senate recently lifted a 10-year ban on earmarks. Recently, every member of Congress from South Florida submitted a list of potential projects in their districts that could receive federal funds.

CD 20 was left out, though, because the law requires Congress to explain that taxpayers should fund a project in their District.

Does anyone believe the Governor would wait this long to fill a Republican seat?

The biggest loser: DeSantis. It’s common for leaders to have disdain for the press, but DeSantis took it to the next level with that circus stunt in Palm Beach. That’s where he signed the voter suppression law — oh, I mean voter security — as an exclusive made-for-TV event on “Fox & Friends.”

This law will dramatically affect all voting Floridians, yet no one in Florida media could attend in person. That’s because those pesky reporters might ask uncomfortable questions, such as why the hell do we need this law?

After all, DeSantis may have rubbed his hand raw by patting himself on the back over how smoothly the 2020 election went.

But no, DeSantis and his Republican serfs in the Legislature felt the need to erect new barriers that most everyone agrees with affect minorities the most. You know, those people not likely to vote for him.

The Washington Post called it a “coup for Team DeSantis.”

I don’t think the Post meant that as a compliment.

“Think about it — if you’re a Republican governor, which would you prefer: a low-key signing ceremony that gets 10 seconds of airtime on a few regional TV news outlets, plus some tough questions from assembled reporters?” Post media critic Erik Wemple wrote.

“Or an event blasted out to millions of like-minded Americans with nothing but caresses from famous TV personalities?”

I’m sure the production went over well in The Villages and other deep-red parts of Florida. But a large number of independent voters in our state might start thinking, “What a jerk.”

On this particular issue, they would be correct.

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An open minded personality.. fun to be with, because of my positive vibes. God fearing, for without God I am nothing.. Moved with compassion when dealing with you, not selfish or self-centered...

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