"Sen. Bill Nelson says he'll vote against Alito's nomination".
"The state's unemployment rate fell to 3.3 percent in December, a 30-year low. Gov. Bush looks at the number and claims victory. He cites Florida's low taxes, favorable regulatory climate and aggressive state and local marketing as evidence of a booming economy. A more objective view of the economic picture suggests something else: Florida's lax regulation, low wages and reliance on an illegal immigrant work force are driving down unemployment but aren't creating a vibrant economy with good jobs and promising career choices. Reality is probably somewhere between the two perspectives." "Why Scripps matters".
Class Size, Vouchers
And so it continues:
Gov. Jeb Bush said Tuesday he would press the Legislature to help loosen class-size rules approved by voters and restore a voucher program scuttled by the state Supreme Court."Bush Plans Push To Loosen Restrictions On Class Sizes". See also "Bush outlines education reforms for final year", "Bush rallies for voucher plan", "Bush: School reform not over" and "Bush wants voucher measure that justices cannot reverse".
Bush said Florida has been a successful "laboratory of reform" on education.
The governor said he supports a resolution submitted for the 2006 legislative session that would put a modification of the 2002 class-size amendment on the statewide ballot this fall. He also said advisers are looking at strategies to restore the Opportunity Scholarship program that justices ruled unconstitutional, and a constitutional amendment generated by the Legislature on that subject also is likely.
"Two petition drives to change Florida's Constitution -- one on anti-tobacco education, another on redistricting -- are closer to having spots on November's ballot." "Two proposals close to ballot spots".
Who Cares, They're Just Manatees
"Downgrading manatees' label to 'threatened' could weaken the very protections that have helped their population stabilize in recent years." "Endangered status ".
"Roughly half of Florida's 3 million Medicare beneficiaries are being covered by the new Medicare drug law, according to data released Tuesday by the Bush administration. But fewer than a quarter-million of those beneficiaries have voluntarily signed up for a Medicare-subsidized prescription drug plan since the enrollment period began Nov. 15, 2005." "Florida Medicare sign-ups lower than anticipated".
"Members of the Florida congressional delegation Tuesday expressed concern about changes announced by the Bush administration that give Louisiana and Alabama greater say in deciding whether drilling will be allowed in portions of the eastern Gulf of Mexico considered to be Florida waters." "State congressional delegation voices worries on gulf drilling". In the meantime, Dubya
is poised in the next two weeks to offer an energy plan that could open millions of acres of the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling."State has lost its say in drilling". See also "Florida delegation claims moves may allow drilling".
All of which causes one to ask: where's "Jeb!"?
"U.S. Senate candidate Richard Tarrant and his wife Deborah owed $4,474 in back property taxes for improperly claiming a homestead exemption in Broward County, the county's tax appraiser said Monday." "U.S. Senate hopeful, wife pay back taxes in Broward".
Hurricane Catastrophe Fund
"Florida's hurricane catastrophe fund doesn't yet face a catastrophe, but it does face a problem. The best response for now would be to hold off on a catastrophic solution." "State hurricane fund: Delay any assessment".
"Currently, the state has seen a 14 percent drop in the number of black students from out of state. The trend is particularly hard on Florida A&M University, a nationally recognized black institution of higher education and a major source of Florida's black enrollment figures." "Education".
Not Gonna Happen
"A state legislator urged Attorney General Charlie Crist today to get involved in a court case alleging that sensitive personal data on state employees was shipped overseas by a former subcontractor of Convergys, the giant company that handles the state's trouble-plagued People First personnel system." "State senator: Crist should take on Convergys". [Note: this story appeared online yesterday after our deadline]
The "Culture of Corruption" Thing
"A top strategist of the Florida Democratic Party [Luis Navarro, executive director of the state party] told local party activists Monday their candidates can capitalize on declining support for President Bush's war policies and public revulsion at a 'culture of corruption' in Congress." "Dems hope to gain from GOP woes". [Note: this story appeared online yesterday after our deadline]
Charlie In The News
"Attorney General Charlie Crist sued a Florida corporation and its officers Tuesday for improperly selling confidential cell phone and telephone records through its Internet sites." "Crist sues South Florida corporation".
"Gov. Jeb Bush said Tuesday he wants south and north county officials to 'make their case' to him, and that he will provide Palm Beach County commissioners with an opinion about where to build the Scripps Florida research park." "Governor seeks Scripps pitches, vows to share his".
"In his last year as governor, Bush stayed away from endorsing candidates in primary battles, most notably the governors race. Bush said he intends to stay out of the battle between Charlie Crist and Tom Gallagher." "Red State? Blue State? Try Purple".
Bill March suggests that "[a]ttitudes toward Katherine Harris' Senate candidacy at high levels in the Republican Party may be thawing." "Opposition To Harris' Run May Be Waning".
recently told The Associated Press, "I'm tired of the FCAT being an excuse for everything from the common cold to the state of the schools." Since the governor has made the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test the be-all and end-all of education in this state, he has no room to complain about all the attention - favorable or not - that the test gets. ..."Nothing to sneeze at".
Bush doesn't want to hear it, but the FCAT does force districts into bad decisions, from starting in early August - the subject of Gov. Bush's "common cold" remark - to taking recess away from elementary kids to taking electives away from high school students. Serious responses are necessary — from giving the FCAT much later in the year to rewarding achievement in arts, which the FCAT doesn't measure, and preserving the physical activity youngsters need. Taking away field trips and sporting events is not a serious response. In fact, that action is one more reason for students to resent the FCAT.
"Gov. Jeb Bush gave a passionate luncheon speech on education Tuesday at a daylong seminar sponsored by the James Madison Institute, the think-tank that promotes 'limited government, individual liberty and personal responsibility.'" "Jeb's Wishful Thinking".
Joint and Several
"Florida's powerful business lobby, largely rebuffed in its attempts last year to win a broad array of protections from lawsuits, is uniting behind a single goal as state lawmakers prepare for their 2006 session." More specifically,
Business lobbyists are pressing the Legislature to eliminate what's known as "joint and several liability." It's the legal principle that says a deep-pocketed company can be forced to pay most of an award in a civil lawsuit, even if it is only partially to blame for the injury."Business seeks legal reforms".
"The book with the blank pages is a gimmick, but what Marco Rubio insists he wants for Florida politics is not. Rubio, a 34-year-old Republican who is slated to become the first Cuban-American House speaker after the November elections, says the contest he will welcome in the Capitol is one of ideas." "Tallahassee idea-raiser".
New Campaign Manager
"Democrats see the Pinellas-Hillsborough state senate District 16 seat being vacated by Republican Jim Sebesta as their best opportunity to pick up a seat. But their lone Democratic candidate, state Rep. Charlie Justice, hasn't done much to fuel optimism with his consistently weak fundraising (less than $30,000, compared to $317,000 for Republican state Rep. Kim Berfield of Clearwater and $248,000 for Rep. Frank Farkas of St. Petersburg)." "Jason The Terrible".
"Senate President Tom Lee has returned a political donation from an influential home builders' group after a member criticized Lee in a newspaper story about his fundraising." "Lee refunds $20,000 donation".