Right Wing Power Grab
"The future of the Florida Senate leadership remained unsettled Thursday, with heir-apparent for 2008 Alex Villalobos of Miami and Jeff Atwater of North Palm Beach both claiming enough votes for the presidency." "2 GOP state senators stake claim to top post" (" After a day of closed-door meetings throughout the Senate Office Building, Atwater appeared to have three more votes than Villalobos, but his dozen still did not represent a majority of the Republican caucus.")
Here's the scoop:
A coalition of conservative Republicans moved quietly this week to block a Miami lawmaker known for his moderate politics from assuming the Senate presidency as he was expected to do in 2008."Senate coalition shifting power". See also "Atwater claims enough votes to be Senate chief", "Challenger emerges for Senate presidency" and "Senate President Atwater?"
The behind-the-scenes powerplay seems obscure outside the capital city, but with the House already firmly controlled by conservative lawmakers, a shift in the Senate could affect state policy for years to come.
More than a year after Republican Sen. Alex Villalobos appeared to sew up the designation as the Senate president for 2008-10, a back-room coup this week leaves that in doubt. ...
"Sen. Villalobos is an outstanding senator and person, but the Senate is moving to a more conservative philosophy and I think Jeff is the right person to carry that forward," said Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey.
"A proposed constitutional amendment that would strip state legislators of their power to redraw legislative and congressional districts should be kept off the ballot, attorneys for several state and federal legislators told the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday." "Keep redistricting off ballot, court urged" ("The lawyers who argued against the amendment, state Rep. Dudley Goodlette and former Rep. Barry Richard, said it would violate a ballot requirement because legislative and congressional redistricting are separate matters.")
"The big bucks that fuel Florida elections are still rolling in unchecked, despite talk of reform and attempts to control lobbying":
Florida is one of just 13 states with no caps on how much can be given to political parties, said Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida. "It's the last big loophole that could easily be closed," he said."Florida Law's Contribution To Politics Is Huge Donations".
For the 2006 election cycle, the Republican Party of Florida has reported 426 donations of $10,000 or more, a total of $8.1 million, according to an analysis of financial reports by The Tampa Tribune. The Florida Democratic Party got 129 such donations, or $2.42 million.
That core of big donors provided more than half the money raised by each party, dwarfing the thousands of smaller donations. The party contributions are not subject to the $500 limit that state law applies to individual candidates.
Never Mind the Mansion Thing
"Bush claims that the property tax cut would save the 'average' homeowner $55. The adjective matters. In selling his federal income tax cuts, the governor's brother also touted "average" savings. But "average" takes into account mansions, meaning that most homeowners will save less than $55, just as the middle class got less proportionally under President Bush's tax cuts. And those Floridians who have a homestead exemption and whose dwellings are assessed at $25,000 or less will get nothing from the property tax cut because they don't pay any property tax. That's why the Democrats added the 'rebate.'" "Covering Citizens deficit better deal for Floridians".
Shorted Yet Again
But any praise for finally starting to address the state's obligation is tempered by Gov. Bush's and the Legislature's failure to meet their obligations to this point. State economists predicted in 2002 that it would take $14.3 billion above normal spending from 2003 to 2007 to meet the class-size amendment's requirements, including $3.6 billion in the upcoming budget. Even if Gov. Bush gets what he wants, the amount is short $1.3 billion for this year and $11.29 billion overall."Schools shorted yet again".
Since Gov. Bush has not paid to reduce class size sufficiently and the state's per-pupil spending consistently ranks 45th or lower, another part of his budget makes no sense. He proposes reducing the "required local effort" — property tax collected in each county but whose rate the Legislature sets — by 9 percent. The cut works out to an average of $55 per homeowner. Because of higher property values, school spending from property taxes still would increase under Gov. Bush's proposal, as would the per-student allotment, which would go up by 5.6 percent, or $348.
But as with the increased spending on class size, the increase does not adequately offset past neglect. School officials also are worried that the Legislature will be reluctant to increase the lowered tax rate even if the real estate market cools off and revenue falls. As the above editorial notes, the governor's school tax break will be more than offset by an assessment he wants each homeowner to pay to bail out Citizens, the property insurer of last resort. Under Gov. Bush's plan, the schools don't get the money they need, and homeowners don't get to keep the money he "gives" them.
"When he learned of the 'whistle-blower' suit, which was secretly filed early last year in Leon County Circuit Court, [DMS Head] Lewis said he contacted Convergys and was told that no data had gone overseas. Argenziano immediately asked if he was relying 'only' on the company's word that everything was all right." "Lewis: No identity theft at DMS".
"Less than no interest"
"Historically the Florida Legislature has shown almost less than no interest in migrant workers' health, education or safety." "Migrant politics".
"It's the stuff of nightmares, and the very definition of cruel and unusual punishment: A prisoner remaining aware, but paralyzed and unable to speak, while a deadly, caustic drug flows through his veins. ... conscious throughout the painful process of stopping their heart." "Autopsy reports expose cruelty of lethal injection".
Oil drilling in the Gulf
is guaranteed to become an issue during Nelson’s re-election this year. His likely Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, is among those critical of his latest plan."Florida congressmen criticize Martinez/Nelson plan to ban drilling". See also "Feds hike stakes in drilling fight", "The fight for 181" ("Competing proposals for gulf drilling are rolling in, but the bill filed by Sens. Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez still offers Florida's beaches the best protection."), "Pressure that won't go away" and "Florida is again threatened by legislation in Washington".
"I’m not looking for a political solution that is knee-jerk and doesn’t actually do something," said Harris, adding that the bill is "dead on arrival in the House, and they know it. Nelson is playing this political game. This is irresponsible to put the federal government in charge of our drilling."
Is "Jeb!" on board with Nelson's bill or not? The St. Pete Times says this:
Asked about the Nelson/Martinez bill, Bush said Thursday: "My expectation is that it might be a big lift to get it passed, but if it did, I can't imagine there would be a single person in the Florida delegation that won't be strongly supportive of it." The burden will be a lot less if Bush puts his considerable political clout into the effort to get the bill passed.Against those lukewarm words, the Orlando Sentinel claims "Bush on Thursday said he supports efforts by U.S. Sens. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., to allow new oil drilling in 740,000 acres in the Gulf of Mexico in exchange for a ban on drilling closer to Florida's coast". "Bush for senators' oil plan".
What Does He Know Anyway
"Roll Call's Louis Jacobson periodically ranks gubernatorial contest for likelihood of a partisan change. He's mighty pessimistic about the Democrats' Florida prospects in his latest column." "Gubernatorial Punditry".
Returning the Favor
"As secretary of state, Katherine Harris helped keep Al Gore out of the White House. Now Al Gore will try to help keep Katherine Harris out of the Senate." "Gore to stump for Nelson's re-election" ("New York Sen. Hillary Clinton also plans Florida fundraising appearances")