Sunday, December 17, 2017
Politics

Romano: Coincidences in Florida's redistricting case defy belief

I kept waiting for Richard Dreyfuss to take the stand.

His expression would be aggrieved. His tone would be exasperated. He would hold Florida's redistricting maps in his hands for a moment, and then angrily toss them aside.

"This,'' he would spat, "was no mapping accident.''

Just like the classic scene in Jaws, we all know what's going on in the state's redistricting trial, but danged if our leaders don't continue to act innocent and bewildered.

They want you to believe in coincidences. They want you to accept a few minor indiscretions. Mostly, they want you to trust them and ignore the pile of evidence.

To do that, you would have to accept:

1. That no one knows how pertinent emails were deleted.

2. That the collective amnesia claimed by witness after witness was believable.

3. That legislative assistants had no ulterior motives when swapping maps with Republican Party consultants weeks before they were released.

4. That it was entirely coincidental that a map supposedly submitted by a student at Florida State University was practically identical to a map drawn by a party consultant.

5. That nothing shady was going on even though the FSU student admitted he never actually drew a map and didn't know how his name ended up on it.

6. That it was a case of serendipity when the student ended up working for a company run by the House speaker's brother.

If you were being polite, you might say all of that sounds rather suspicious. If you were being realistic, you would say it stinks. For, in the end, this is a matter of trust.

We are supposed to trust that our lawmakers had our best interests in mind even as they duck, evade, parse and seemingly fudge the truth.

And, all the while, there is no outrage in Tallahassee.

Gov. Rick Scott, who has to sign off on the congressional maps, should be furious at the appearance of impropriety considering he was once preoccupied with voter fraud.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, who is fighting a same-sex marriage suit in the name of a constitutional amendment, seems remarkably blasé about similar amendments being ignored in this case.

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, act as if it is no big deal that someone fraudulently submitted a map that played a large role.

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, seems to have no problem with possible district stacking as long as it ensures her easy re-election.

And what's crazy is they almost pulled it off.

They had us convinced that federal voting regulations and the state's constitutional amendments were virtually incompatible, and that no map would ever perfectly fit the various criteria.

It took this lawsuit by the League of Women Voters to point out how your lawmakers used those excuses to continue to rig elections long before the polls opened.

The trial is over now, but the verdict is still to come. Closing arguments will be submitted in writing next week, and the judge's ruling is probably a few weeks away.

I'm not sure a definitive smoking gun was ever revealed, but I'm absolutely convinced that Republican Party officials had a hand in the drawing of those maps.

And that means the people who are sworn to represent us have instead been trying to deceive and undermine us.

Comments
Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

WASHINGTON — Closing in on the first major legislative achievement of his term, President Donald Trump on Saturday defended the Republican tax cut as a good deal for the middle class while boldly suggesting it could lead to explosive economic growth....
Published: 12/16/17
Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Sometime soon, members of the Florida House will be asked to consider a solution for bullying in public schools. It’s a dubious idea based on the premise that students should flee their tormenters, and use voucher funds to attend a private school of ...
Published: 12/16/17
CDC gets list of forbidden words: ‘fetus,’ ‘transgender,’ ‘evidence-based’

CDC gets list of forbidden words: ‘fetus,’ ‘transgender,’ ‘evidence-based’

Trump administration officials are forbidding officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases - including "fetus" and "transgender" - in any official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.Polic...
Published: 12/16/17
Female congressional candidate leaves race after sexual harassment allegations resurface

Female congressional candidate leaves race after sexual harassment allegations resurface

A Democratic candidate hoping to flip a hotly contested congressional seat in Kansas has dropped out of the race after allegations that she sexually harassed a male subordinate resurfaced amid her campaign.Andrea Ramsey, 57, who was running to unseat...
Published: 12/16/17
Highlights of GOP compromise bill to overhaul tax code

Highlights of GOP compromise bill to overhaul tax code

WASHINGTON — Republicans in Congress have blended separate tax bills passed by the House and Senate into compromise legislation that seeks to achieve a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s tax code. GOP leaders are looking toward passage of the final pa...
Published: 12/15/17
Updated: 12/16/17
With Rubio, Corker back on board, GOP speeds ahead with tax plan

With Rubio, Corker back on board, GOP speeds ahead with tax plan

WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers on Friday secured enough votes to pass the most sweeping tax overhaul in decades, putting them on the cusp of their first significant legislative victory this year as party leaders geared up to pass a $1.5 trillion t...
Published: 12/15/17
Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

TAMPA — Nearly 600,000 more people will live in Hillsborough County by 2040, and if elected officials and county planners don’t take bold steps now, the population boom will turn the county into the soulless sprawl of Anywhere, U.S.A.That’s the messa...
Published: 12/15/17
Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

WASHINGTON — America’s top diplomat stepped back Friday from his offer of unconditional talks with North Korea, telling world powers that the nuclear-armed nation must earn the right to negotiate with the United States. Secretary of State Rex Tillers...
Published: 12/15/17
Judge signals release of ex-Trump chair Paul Manafort to Florida home under curfew and GPS monitoring

Judge signals release of ex-Trump chair Paul Manafort to Florida home under curfew and GPS monitoring

A federal judge Friday said a bail package has been put together that would release former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort from home confinement in his condominium in Virginia and allow him to reside at his house in Palm Beach Gardens, but unde...
Published: 12/15/17
The meta-soap opera of Omarosa Manigault’s White House exit

The meta-soap opera of Omarosa Manigault’s White House exit

WASHINGTON — As the spooling drama of Omarosa Manigault Newman’s White House departure spun into its 36th hour, Washington began asking itself: "Does it actually matter whether Omarosa quit or was fired?"Dumbest story ever," tweeted John Harwood, the...
Published: 12/15/17