"Environmentalists Tuesday stepped up criticism of a Senate measure to open the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling, running radio spots and newspaper ads that blast Florida's Sen. Mel Martinez for signing off on the deal. The radio spots and an ad in the Tampa Tribune come a week after Martinez and key senators announced a compromise that would open up eight million acres off the west coast of Florida to drilling, while barring rigs at least 235 miles off the coast at Tampa and Naples and at least 125 miles off the Panhandle." "Ads blast Martinez over drilling deal".
The FCAT Issue
"Candidates for governor find it's unwise to get too close to, or too far away from, Bush's education record."
The Democrats - U.S. Rep. Jim Davis and state Sen. Rod Smith - slam virtually every change Bush has made to Florida's school system, but reserve special scorn for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. Smith says the governor's "maniacal commitment" to the FCAT is burning out teachers and thinning out curriculum. Davis calls it a "political weapon."But the Dems appear to have the upper hand:
Meanwhile, the Republicans - Attorney General Charlie Crist and Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher - praise Bush's policies and promise to keep using the FCAT to grade schools, retain students and reward teachers.
Both approaches carry big risks.
A St. Petersburg Times poll found more Florida residents say the FCAT has hurt public schools than helped, 42 percent to 37 percent. Even among Republicans, a lukewarm 44 percent said the FCAT was helping compared to 33 percent who said it was not."Gov. Bush, FCAT hang over race".
On more specific questions, strong majorities, even among Republicans, opposed using the FCAT to penalize schools, retain students or determine which teachers deserve bonuses. The poll, conducted in March, had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
"Justice Department officials have requested records from the Senate campaign of U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris as they continue investigating the dealings of a defense contractor involved in a wide-ranging congressional corruption case. Harris acknowledged the Justice Department action Tuesday after her campaign was asked about it earlier in the day. It was not clear if federal prosecutors issued a subpoena or sent a letter to the campaign in search of information, and a Harris spokeswoman would not elaborate." "Justice seeks Harris records". See also "Justice requests Harris' records".
However, and for what it is worth, "Harris: Feds say she's not a target of probe". See also "Harris: I'm Not Under Investigation".
"Nursing homes fail to receive reimbursement for Medicaid residents." "Jeb should reverse veto to help elderly".
Gallagher a Hit
"Gallagher, delivering an expanded version of his stump speech, won repeated applause from the crowd as he talked insurance, education and tort reform. And laughter answered his story about how his Catholicism and his wife's Baptist tradition have played out with their son Charlie, who was baptized Catholic but attends a Baptist church." "Gallagher a Hit at Hillsborough REC".
"Tom Gallagher, along with GOP primary opponent Charlie Crist, has signed the non-attack campaign pledge, but that doesn't mean their friends have." "Stemberger on the Attack".
"Speechwriter Jennifer Hickey is leaving U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris' congressional office."
[This] an email she sent around to friends and colleagues Tuesday announcing her departure."A feeling of resignation".
Value of "George Harris Legacy Loan" to Senate campaign: $10 million
Value of "refurbishments" to Capitol Hill residence: $100,000
Value of Handing in my Resignation Letter: Priceless
In her email, Hickey said Harris doesn't even know she is leaving since the congresswoman is home recovering from surgery.
"Three lawmakers filed paperwork for Republican Tom Gallagher to enter him in the governor's race Tuesday, adding the state's chief financial officer to the official list of candidates seeking to succeed Gov. Jeb Bush." "Gallagher files paperwork for governor's race". See also "Gallagher officially in the race", "Conservative legislators give Gallagher boost", "Gallagher files qualifying papers for governor" and "Gallagher's bid for governor is official".
"Republican Katherine Harris is spending money as fast as anyone in the nation as she runs for U.S. Senate, but she's still playing catch-up. By dipping into her own fortune, Harris has spent $2.1 million over the past three months on her campaign -- about a million more than she raised. Polls show she still lags about 30 percentage points behind incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, who has $12.1 million in contributions. Harris put big money into early television commercials, beefed up fundraising efforts and has spent more on political consultants as she looks for ways to rebound from the poll numbers." "Katherine Harris spends $2.1 million over past 3 months".
"A state board says a Schiavo nurse violated confidentiality by giving TV interviews. The governor's attempt to save the nurse's license has raised questions of appropriateness." "Bush again in Schiavo dispute".
Smith Moves North
"The first day of Smith's three-day, 1,100-mile bus tour focused on an area that was once heavily Democratic, but where Republicans now dominate. It's also an area where Smith, a former prosecutor who was raised on a farm, believes he can win the conservative vote back." "Smith campaigns in conservative Panhandle".
In response, Bense embarasses Himself: "Rod in Bense country. Bense not happy".
Insurance Rates To Skyrocket
"State Farm, one of Florida's largest insurers, will raise property insurance rates by an average of 52.7 percent this year under a plan approved Tuesday by state regulators." "State Farm's property insurance rates will jump by more than 50 percent". See also "State Farm rate increase OK'd".
"If the state doesn't lower the rate of people who are either improperly denied food stamp assistance or underpaid, or those who are paid too much, the state could face fines, federal administrators have warned." "Feds keep eye on food stamp program".
Charter Schools End Run
"Under a new Florida law, if school districts want to retain their constitutional duty to "operate, control and supervise all free public schools" within their counties -- including privately operated charter schools -- they will have to apply to the State Board of Education. The law, signed last month by Gov. Jeb Bush, assigns the responsibility to approve charter schools to the 'Florida Schools of Excellence Commission.' That panel, to be appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, is unlikely to be a politically independent judge of the quality of charter schools -- even with new accountability standards that are a part of the law. The justification for the end run around the constitution is based on the false allegation that school districts are biased against charter schools." "Public duty".
Florida Failing Kids (Part I)
"As the rate of girls entering Florida's juvenile justice system escalates, programs to help them continue to lag far behind, according to a new study released Tuesday." "Help for delinquent girls criticized". See also "Florida justice system harsher to underage girls, study finds".
"Across Florida, politicians are spreading the word that the state needs to harden itself against hurricanes. Unfortunately, that message hasn't gotten through the hard heads of a few important people. Those would be most members of the Florida Building Commission, which determines construction codes. Meeting last week in Hollywood, the commission by a vote of 15-3 kept in place a storm code exemption for Florida's Panhandle. The commission ignored the state's insurance commissioner, the state's planning director who also supervises the emergency management staff and hurricane safety advocates in general." "End costly storm break".
Volusia County "Supervisor of Elections Ann McFall made the right call in prohibiting a possible County Council candidate from using the name Jeff "AxTax" Davis on the ballot." "Ax the gimmicks for voters".
"State asks court to reject Childers' appeal".
Florida Failing Kids (Part II)
"In a 24-page report released Tuesday, the Virginia-based National Coalition for Child Protection Reform blasted Florida's child welfare system for wrongly removing thousands of children from their parents, flooding an already weary social service system and causing life-long trauma to children." "Report: Too many kids being taken into foster care".
"The U.S. Department of Education, meaning the Bush administration, last week turned an important study comparing public and private schools into a case study on how to bury bad news."
First, it's instructive to explain why the Education Department considered the study to be bad news. Ironic as it may seem to those who haven't followed the Bush administration, it's not because public schools performed poorly. It's just the opposite. The study, conducted for the Education Department by the Educational Testing Service, concluded that public schools stack up well against private schools."Bush-suppressed study dispels voucher myth".
That's "bad news" to the pro-voucher Bush administration and explains why the Department of Education sat on the study after receiving it last year, added weasel words to water down the conclusions and then released the report with zero fanfare on a Friday afternoon in mid-summer when the Middle East was going up in flames.
"Florida property buyers spend more each year for title insurance than doctors do for medical malpractice, but the title game has gone largely unnoticed in Tallahassee. As a new state study reveals, the result is that consumers are forced to pay inflated rates for a product that is not really insurance at all." "Title insurance games".