Monday, July 31, 2023

Florida constitutional amendment proposals most likely to reach ballots in 2024. (Capitolist, July 30, 2023)

So is this the best we can possibly do in terms of 2024 Florida Constitutional Amendments?  

Are we serious?

From Capitalist:

These are the constitutional amendment proposals most likely to reach ballots in 2024

by  | Jul 30, 2023

As the political world moves into the 2024 election cycle, leading candidates seeking to seize the nation’s most powerful positions have commanded much of the media’s attention. Stateside, however, constitutional amendment proposals are entering the final stretch of gathering and certifying signatures, racing to reach the necessary number to appear on ballots.

The process for a constitutional amendment initiative to reach ballots involves a petition-driven method. First, advocates must draft language addressing a single subject for the proposed amendment, which is then reviewed by the Florida Attorney General to ensure it is not misleading and meets legal requirements

Once approved, a specific number of valid signatures from registered Florida voters must be collected. In Florida, the number of required signatures for an amendment is equal to 8 percent of the votes cast in the preceding presidential election. For the current election cycle, this amounts to 891,589 valid signatures, which must be certified by February 1, 2024.

Florida also enforces a distribution rule which stipulates that at least 14 of the state’s 28 congressional districts must submit signatures totaling at least 8 percent of the district-wide vote in the most recent presidential election.

The proposed amendment then undergoes a second review, this time conducted by the Florida Supreme Court, to confirm its adherence to the one-subject rule and to eliminate voter deception. If the required signatures are verified and the Supreme Court gives its approval, the amendment proceeds to the general election ballot, where voters can cast votes on the proposal. If an amendment receives 60 percent of the vote, it is adopted.

Two proposals have already been referred to ballots by the state Legislature. The first, if approved by voters, would make school board elections partisan beginning in the November 2026 general election. Currently, four states — Alabama, Connecticut, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania — have state laws providing for partisan school board elections.

The second would provide a state constitutional right to hunt and fish, declaring that they serve as the preferred means for “responsibly managing and controlling fish and wildlife” and “shall be preserved forever as a public right.”

As of this month, three proposals — with varying degrees of probability — appear to be within reason of appearing on the 2024 ballots.

Safe & Smart Florida

The only proposal to surpass one million signatures (1,013,352), the Smart & Safe Florida political committee is seeking to amend the state’s marijuana laws to allow individuals aged 21 or older to “possess, use, purchase, display, and transport up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and marijuana accessories for personal use for any reason.”

Trulieve — Florida’s largest medical marijuana distributor — has contributed more than $50 million to the initiative, accounting for nearly all of the committee’s fundraising, with less than $125 coming from other sources. All but about $100,000 of the money raised by the committee has been spent on collecting and validating petition signatures.

The proposal would also allow any of the state’s 22 licensed medical marijuana operators to “acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell and distribute such products and accessories.”

The committee faces a potential hiccup, however, after the Florida Supreme Court stated in May that it would consider a legal challenge issued by state Attorney General Ashley Moody which contends the proposal violates the state’s constitution.

In her submission, Moody indicated that “the proposed amendment fails to meet the requirements” of specific state law. However, she withheld further details, promising “additional argument through a briefing at the appropriate time.”

With the validity of the proposal at the discretion of the state’s highest court, Safe & Smart Florida can be considered a coin-toss initiative, with its approval as likely as its denial.

Right to Clean Water Initiative

The Right to Clean and Healthy Water Initiative, sponsored by the organization of the same name, would establish a “fundamental right to clean and healthy waters” in the state constitution while granting residents the legal authority to sue organizations or government entities in order to enforce such rights.

The organization was formed following a successful water rights campaign in Orange County by a similar volunteer group that campaigned to protect water quality within the jurisdiction.

The amendment was adopted by 89.2 percent of county voters when it was placed for consideration on the 2020 ballot, making it the first county charter amendment in the United States to establish a legal foundation for protecting the waters within its bounds.

Despite picking up support from the League of Women Voters of Florida and being endorsed by the Alachua County Board of Commissioners, the proposal has procured just 43,410 signatures. With less than eight months until the cutoff date, it seems unlikely that organizers will be able to gather the necessary number of signatures by February.

Amendment to Limit Government Interference with Abortion

The least likely of the discussed initiatives to make it to ballots, the Floridians For Freedom-backed proposal aims to do exactly as its name states — establish that “no law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health.”

A relatively recent effort, having only been launched in May of this year, it was filed in direct response to legislation passed by state lawmakers during the last Legislative Session that saw Florida’s abortion regulations extended to six weeks.

The initiative has received the support of Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, as well as Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

Thus far, the campaign has picked up 22,165 signatures. Though the cards seemed stacked against gathering 869,000 more signatures, News Service of Florida reported earlier this year that the backing committee raised $1.87 million in the week before its founding. Moreover, inevitable debates on the national stage could provide an increase in awareness. While it would be fair to consider the amendment dead on arrival, it still has a pulse.

Notably, an opposite measure sponsored by Protect Human Life Florida seeks to codify abortion regulation into the state’s constitution. Since its inception, it has received 16,053 signatures.

A Minor Reboot Won’t Save Ron DeSantis’s Toxic Campaign. John Cassidy, (The New Yorker, July 24, 2023)

Over-developers' puppet Florida Governor, RONALD DION DeSANTIS, is having a tough time attracting 2024 Republican Presidential Primary votes in Iowa, N.H., S.C. and everywhere else.  

In 2012, when I first saw DeSANTIS in 2012 Republican primary debate at County Auditorium, figured he was an empty suit -- inauthentic, other-directed and demagogic.  

Now the world sees it.    

What do y'all reckon?

I pity the ambitious, pompous, asinine, egotistical, power-mad, whiny, upstart a corpulent corporate puppet swine from Yale U. and Harvard Law School. What a waste of a good education. 

No sense of humor. No charm.  No interest in our local issues in St. Johns County, where he disrespected our elected officials as Congressman. 

No social conscience. 

No empathy.  

He's lower than a snake's belly in a wagon rut.  Meaner than Richard Nixon.

The whiniest voice of any Presidential candidate in my lifetime. 

The wackiest policy ideas in the race.

As we say in St. Augustine, "Bless his heart."

From The New Yorker:

A Minor Reboot Won’t Save Ron DeSantis’s Toxic Campaign

Florida’s governor will need to do much more than shake hands with voters at greasy spoons if he wants to beat Donald Trump.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Historically Black fraternity drops Florida for convention because of DeSantis policies (AP)

"Ideas have consequences." So said the late Georgetown University Professor José Silverio Sorzano, my political theory professor (later Deputy UN Ambassador under Reagan Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick).

Consequences are proliferating from the idea that Florida's goofy GQP Governor and Legislature in the State of Florida could flaunt their racism and insult Florida's tourism and convention customers. This is is the height of GQP arrogance.  

It is now irrefragable that Flori-DUH's Boy Governor RONALD DION DeSANTIS's hateful polices have economic consequences. 

Dingbat DeSANTIS is a loser.  His ideas belong in history's dustbins.

From Associated Press:

Historically Black fraternity drops Florida for convention because of DeSantis policies

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The oldest historically Black collegiate fraternity in the U.S. says it is relocating a planned convention in two years from Florida because of what it described as Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration’s “harmful, racist and insensitive” policies towards African Americans.

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity said this week that it would move its 2025 convention from Orlando to another location that is yet undecided. The convention draws between 4,000 and 6,000 people and has an economic impact of $4.6 million, the fraternity said.

The decision comes after the NAACP and other civil rights organizations this spring issued a travel advisory for Florida, warning that recently passed laws and policies are openly hostile to African Americans, people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Willis Lonzer, the fraternity’s general president, said in statement on Wednesday that the decision was motivated in part by Florida’s new education standards that require teachers to instruct middle school students that slaves developed skills that “could be applied for their personal benefit.”

“Although we are moving our convention from Florida, Alpha Phi Alpha will continue to support the strong advocacy of Alpha Brothers and other advocates fighting against the continued assault on our communities in Florida by Governor Ron DeSantis,” Lonzer said.

An email seeking comment on Saturday about the fraternity’s decision was sent to Jeremy Redfern, the governor’s press secretary and the governor’s office.

DeSantis, who is running for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, has come under fire this week over Florida’s new education standards. Among those criticizing the Florida governor on Friday was a rival for the Republican nomination, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the sole Black Republican in the Senate.

Responding to the criticism, DeSantis said Friday that he was “defending” Florida “against false accusations and against lies. And we’re going to continue to speak the truth.”

In May, the NAACP joined the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a Latino civil rights organization, and Equality Florida, a gay rights advocacy group, in issuing travel advisories for the Sunshine State, where tourism is one of the state’s largest job sectors. The groups cited recent laws that prohibited state colleges from having programs on diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as critical race theory, and the Stop WOKE Act that restricts certain race-based conversations and analysis in schools and businesses.

They also cited laws that they say made life more difficult for immigrants in Florida and limited discussions on LGBTQ topics in schools. 

At least nine other organizations or associations have pulled the plug on hosting conventions in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, two of the state’s most population convention cities, because of Florida’s political climate, according to local media reports.

Florida is one of the most popular states in the U.S. for tourists, and tourism is one of its biggest industries. More than 137.5 million tourists visited Florida last year, marking a return to pre-pandemic levels, according to Visit Florida, the state’s tourism promotion agency. Tourism supports 1.6 million full-time and part-time jobs, and visitors spent $98.8 billion in Florida in 2019, the last year figures are available.


Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at @MikeSchneiderAP

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Meet the student who helped boot the president of Stanford. (WaPo)

"The world will stand aside for a young man who knows where he's going."  -- line from Earl Hamner, Jr. 1970s tv series, The Waltons.

Meet the student who helped boot the president of Stanford

College journalist Theo Baker’s reporting paved the way for Marc Tessier-Lavigne’s resignation

The Stanford Daily’s Theo Baker interviews Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) after a class on Oct. 24, 2022. (Nikolas Liepins)
8 min
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SAN FRANCISCO — On Christmas Day, Theo Baker was pacing around a relative’s home in Los Angeles, mumbling to himself: “How am I going to get inside Genentech? How am I going to get inside Genentech? How am I going to get inside Genentech?”

He was a freshman at Stanford University, just a few months into his career as a college journalist, and already fixated on a huge reporting challenge: Finding workers at a Bay Area biotech company, where Stanford’s president had once been a top executive, to scrutinize research he’d overseen. Baker’s parents were initially concerned and skeptical when he told them about pursuing allegations of research misconduct that could implicate Marc Tessier-Lavigne, a neuroscientist who had just completed his sixth year as the head of Stanford.

“Be careful here,” Peter Baker recalls telling his son. “This guy is a world-renowned scientist, and you’re a 17-year-old kid.”

As journalists, Theo Baker’s parents have covered wars and presidents. His mother, Susan Glasser, is a former Washington Post editor who’s now a staff writer at the New Yorker. Peter Baker, a former Post reporter, is the chief White House correspondent for the New York Times. Theo Baker’s investigation would soon win him a special George Polk Award. Not only did his reporting for the Stanford Daily get inside Genentech, it also contributed to Tessier-Lavigne’s resignation this month.

How did it all happen? Through a helpful tip from a friend, a dogged but careful reporting process, and a childhood — surrounded by his parents’ endeavors in journalism — that prepared him for the pace and heat of a big story.

Growing up with two notable bylines as parents, Baker learned through example and osmosis. Before he could read or type, Baker was toddling around the Washington Post newsroom. Some of his fondest memories, he says, are of workshopping unpublished headlines with his mother when he was 7 or 8.

“My parents have always included me, even when they had no obligation to,” Baker said. He’s had firsthand lessons in the demands of the 24/7 news cycle. Baker has seen his parents cut short vacations and dinners because of breaking news. On multiple occasions he’s nearly walked on camera, pajama-clad, as they’ve been in the middle of television hits at home. Now he’s doing TV interviews himself.

“He had the velocity of the news cycle ingrained in him from an early age,” Glasser said of her son. As a middle schooler during the Trump administration, Baker had multiple news alerts set up on his phone and would often text his parents during the school day, inquiring about the implications of the president’s latest announcement or executive order.

Baker chose Stanford because it was a place he could pursue an array of interests, from humanities to the ethics of artificial intelligence. He’s hosted campus hackathons and has embedded with a student group of amateur race-car drivers. Frank Zhou, Baker’s best friend from boarding school at Phillips Academy Andover, recalls intense ping-pong matches — Baker has a tell-tale tennis stroke, Zhou says — and late-night dorm hallway conversations about German literature.

Last fall, one of Baker’s friends, a recent Stanford graduate, directed him to a post on PubPeer — a website where scientists raise questions about published research — that pointed out aberrations in reports fromTessier-Lavigne’s research team. In early October, Baker engaged scientific experts to review the papers co-authored by Tessier-Lavigne that contained images alleged by experts to be manipulated. Baker’s reporting enlisted multiple scientific experts to examine, corroborate and ultimately expand upon the concerns raised on PubPeer.

On Nov. 30, the day after the Daily published the first of more than a dozen stories about the allegations, the university convened a panel of experts to independently examine Tessier-Lavigne’s research. Last week that panel found that Tessier-Lavigne had failed to correct errors in years-old scientific papers and had overseen labs with an “unusual frequency” of data manipulations. On July 19 Tessier-Lavigne announced in a statement that he’d step down as university president Aug. 31 but remain on the Stanford faculty. Tessier-Lavigne also said that he would ask for three papers to be retracted and two corrected.

The report from the panel “clearly refutes the allegations of fraud and misconduct that were made against me” online, Tessier-Lavigne wrote, adding that “in some instances I should have been more diligent when seeking corrections, and I regret that I was not. The Panel’s review also identified instances of manipulation of research data by others in my lab. Although I was unaware of these issues, I want to be clear that I take responsibility for the work of my lab members.”

In February, at 18 years old, Baker won the special Polk award for his reporting in the Daily. He’s the youngest person to ever win a Polk, though it’s not unusual for college journalists to have a profound impact on their universities. This month, Northwestern University fired its football coach after the Daily Northwestern reported on specific details of hazing that had led to the coach’s suspension.

From 2020: College newspaper reporters are the journalism heroes for the pandemic era

Theo Baker with his special Polk Award. (Courtesy of Theo Baker)

Sam Catania, the Daily’s editor in chief for the past academic year, said his role was to be the skeptic, constantly asking questions of Baker’s reporting and prodding him to consider whether his sources might have ulterior motives. “We tried to never be overconfident,” Catania said in an interview.

Oriana Riley, a rising junior and editor at the Daily, observed Baker working so many late nights that she would unsuccessfully urge him to get some sleep to avoid burning out. “A lot of people at Stanford have this trait,” Riley said. “Sometimes they will not give up on things to the point where maybe you should give up — or at least take a break.”

Baker and his parents insist that he and his peers did this work without the parents getting involved. The student journalists had the benefit of pre-publication consultations and edits from the Daily’s professional advisers — one of whom is a current Washington Post editor who also serves on the Daily’s board of directors — and a pro-bono legal review from the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine.

“My parents — they don’t read my copy before it goes out,” Baker notes, adding: “They’re not my editors.”

One way Baker’s parents have had a distinct influence on him is in hammering home the importance of attending classes even while you’re plugging away on an important story. Peter Baker dropped out of Oberlin College after two years to pursue a career in journalism — something his son doesn’t plan to emulate.

“He’s doing what his father never did — he’s going to classes,” Peter said in an interview. (The younger Baker concedes that he did skip a lecture on Machiavelli to break a story about Tessier-Lavigne.)

Former Post editor R.B. Brenner, a Stanford journalism lecturer who recently left the Daily’s advisory board, said that Baker brought to Stanford a “Washington sophistication” in his understanding of stories that “require a fair number of anonymous sources and there can be quite a level of risk involved.”

It was isolating for a campus newbie to be investigating the university president. Baker said he had a “great, fantastic team” at the Daily, but other outlets weren’t pushing this story forward. “I was really scared, and I felt really alone,” Baker said of the experience.

Sometimes, fellow students would treat him “like a zoo animal,” he said, by walking past his dorm room and pointing out that Baker was the student journalist investigating the president. “I just started at Stanford and I was still trying to find my friends,” Baker said. “It was a little weird when people would interrupt in the middle of class and be like, ‘Oh my god, you’re that kid!’ or come up to me when I’m trying to go to a party.” He gave up on Tinder after one week of swiping, he said, because so many matches commented about his journalism or suggested new reporting targets.

Baker is currently working in Berlin for the summer with the Anti-Corruption Foundation, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s organization, to track down companies evading sanctions to provide Russia with materiel for its war against Ukraine.

Baker, a rising sophomore, has yet to choose a major. “I will probably end up doing some mix of humanities and STEM technology stuff,” he said.