"State Rep. John Quinones of Kissimmee, the first Republican of Puerto Rican descent to be elected to the Legislature, may resign his seat to run for an Osceola County Commission seat. ... If Quinones resigns, Gov. Charlie Crist will be forced to call a second special election to fill a House vacancy. The other open seat is in Pensacola, where Rep. Holly Benson resigned to take a job in the Crist administration. Note: Crist's schedule for Wednesday shows a morning meeting with Quinones in the governor's office." "Is Quinones quitting?"
GOPers After The Class Size Amendment Again
"Yet another attempt by Florida lawmakers to modify the class size amendment may be in the works."
Rep. David Simmons, the chairman of a new education committee created by incoming House Speaker Marco Rubio, told other members Tuesday that he wants to raise teacher salaries, and that savings from a modified amendment would be a good place to get the money."Another try to tinker with class size coming?".
Last year, the state allocated $1.6-billion to reduce class sizes.
"It's better to invest in the teacher," Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, said after the meeting. "The human resource is a much better asset than the bricks and mortar."
Dems Get Key Committees
"U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor"
scored a big committee assignment. Already on the powerful Rules Committee, which sets the rules for debates on legislation and amendments in Congress, Castor on Tuesday was added to the House Armed Service Committee, which has jurisdiction over military issues and the war in Iraq."Area Democrats gain seats on key House committees" (meanwhile, "Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, still hasn't been assigned to any committee.")
In a rare move, congressional Democrats agreed Tuesday to allow Florida's freshman representatives to serve on more than one major committee."Fla. freshmen OK'd for multiple panels".
Rep. Ron Klein, a Democrat from Boca Raton, and Rep. Tim Mahoney, a Democrat from Palm Beach Gardens, both serve on the House Financial Services Committee. Under Democratic Caucus rules, members of that committee do not serve on other panels.
Mahoney, whose 16th Congressional District has extensive agricultural interests including citrus, sugar and cattle, persuaded Democratic leaders to allow him to also serve on the Agriculture Committee. The federal farm bill is likely to be one of the major pieces of legislation before Congress this year.
Klein, who has been a strong supporter of Israel and has called for decreasing the United States' dependence on foreign oil, was appointed to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
"The dispute over the race to replace Rep. Katherine Harris continued with a voting machine manufacturer accusing a congresswoman of trying to intimidate the courts."
The move by Election Systems & Software comes days after Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, D-Calif., chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, wrote a letter to the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee. She said she was ''concerned'' that a lower court judge had declined to give Democrats access to the software used in voting machines in the contested District 13 congressional election. ...ES&S ain't happy:
In her letter, Millender-McDonald said the House would be ''well served in its own deliberations by having before it a complete record'' and she suggested that resolution at the state level could preclude the House from getting involved.
in a motion filed Tuesday with the appeals court, Election Systems & Software -- which also supplied the machines used in Miami-Dade and Broward -- argues that Millender-McDonald ''has no standing to participate'' because she is not a party to the lawsuit. It asks that her ''unauthorized, non-party response'' be struck from the court record."Election firm blasts politician". See also "ES&S urges court to ignore letter from congresswoman".
The company argues that her letter is a ''thinly veiled attempt by one member of Congress to intimidate this court and unduly influence its deliberations'' to give a fellow Democrat "an unwarranted advantage in this election contest."
A spokeswoman for Jennings said the filing was "another example of ES&S putting its own interests ahead of the public good.
In the meantime, "Voters represented by the ACLU added their support to Democrat Christine Jennings' cause this week -- asking an appeals court to allow Jennings to look at the programming code in the electronic voting machines used in the disputed congressional election in Sarasota County." "ACLU gets involved in Jennings' case".
Real Reform or a "Short-sighted and Irresponsible" Political Fix?
"If cynics don't believe an outcry can change things, they should look at lawmakers' effort to figure out what to do about property insurance." "Outcry shifted goal from saving market to lowering rates".
Charlie to talk insurance specifics tomorrow: "Crist and lawmakers girded themselves Tuesday for a potential insurance collision next week over how to appease a groundswell of public pressure to offer instant rate relief to homeowners." Crist has "prepared his own 'very specific goals' to be rolled out Thursday and issued his toughest talk since taking office about his intent to follow through on campaign pledges he made to cut rates." "Gov. Crist renews pledge to lower insurance rates". See also "Crist pleads for help in insurance fight" ("Crist urged consumer advocates on Tuesday to join him in taking on the insurance industry as he and lawmakers prepare for what is likely to be a contentious special session aimed at lowering property insurance rates.")
"With voters howling for relief and a special legislative session scheduled next week, Florida senators began discussing a plan Tuesday aimed at cutting property-insurance rates." However, Sen. Jim King points out that the plans "could set up a political battle during the special session between lawmakers from inland and coastal areas. "Senate seeks insurance relief". See also "Citizens' proposal would cut rates". For more on the proposed legislation see "Possible Changes".
This is remarkable: "The speaker of Florida's House is demanding that companies across the country hand over computer models used to justify huge homeowners insurance rate increases in many coastal areas. That could lead to a precedent-setting battle over information the industry has long considered confidential." "New Speaker Challenges Insurance Risk Projections".
Good luck: "The state’s trial lawyers weigh in today with their version of how to fix the state’s property insurance crisis. The Florida Justice Association, formerly known as the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers, holds a press conference today at 10 a.m. in Tallahassee to announce what it calls 'pro-consumer insurance reform.'" "Lawyers introduce 'pro-consumer insurance reform'".
Will there be real reform or a "short-sighted and irresponsible" political fix?
The legislative leaders and Gov. Charlie Crist have not agreed on a comprehensive plan to address the complicated mess, and special sessions that begin without such agreements often are a prescription for failure. Unless something changes quickly, what should be an opportunity to fundamentally overhaul a broken system could become an irresponsible stampede to lower rates now and cross our fingers later when hurricane season comes."Beware quick insurance fix".
For example, there is a general consensus that an average 56 percent rate increase that would take effect in March for windstorm policyholders stuck in Citizens Property Insurance Corp. should be repealed. That increase was based on faulty logic included in last year's attempt at fixing the problem, which would require the state's insurer of last resort to set its rates as though it buys reinsurance - which it doesn't. But a Senate proposal would go further and also repeal an average 25 percent rate increase for Citizens policyholders that took effect Jan. 1. Repealing that rate increase would be short-sighted and irresponsible. It would provide a short-term political benefit to legislators who campaigned on reducing rates, but it would make Citizens rates less financially sound and increase the risk of more assessments following a hurricane.
"A group sponsoring a citizen initiative designed to give voters a bigger voice in local planning and development decisions may face an unintended consequence from its argument Tuesday before the Florida Supreme Court. ... Now, the justices are separately considering a financial impact statement written by the state. It predicts the amendment would cause local governments to 'incur significant costs (millions of dollars statewide)' although acknowledging 'expenditures cannot be determined precisely.'" "Planning amendment backers may get unintended result".
"Crist has called an 11:00 a.m. press conference in the Cabinet Meeting Room just beneath his office in the Capitol." "Crist to name additional officials today".
We may hear about the PSC today: "It is unclear how long [former Florida House Rep. Ken Littlefield and Isilio Arriaga] will remain on the commission and whether future members will be elected by the people or chosen by a panel of lawmakers, as they have been since 1978. What is clear is that GOP Gov. Charlie Crist says the five-member group that regulates utilities also panders to them. Crist has been vocal about making changes at the PSC, saying the agency's obligation is to the people instead of the utilities they regulate." "As PSC convenes, shake-up possible" ("In 1999, Bush, a Republican, withdrew 170 unconfirmed appointments, including two to the PSC, of the late Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, but he later signed off on the two PSC nominations.") See also "New PSC member takes seat, but may lose it today".
"Codes of Anything"
Steve Otto: "Executive Order Number 07-01 calls for several things, from a "Code of Ethics" to a 'Code of Personal Responsibility' to a 'Plain Language Initiative.' But the biggie in the order is the establishment of a new office, to be called the Office of Open Government. The idea of OOG, according to the order, is to charge 'Office of the Governor and each of the executive agencies under my purview with the guidance and tools to serve Florida with integrity and transparency.'"
I'll be honest with you. Entities like OOG make me nervous. I feel the same way about codes of anything, whether it's ethics, personal responsibility or a dress code. My experience has been that those who preach the loudest are the ones you need to keep an eye on."Codes Of Anything Make Me Nervous".
For the most part, aren't all of these things responsibilities that are supposed to be already understood when you show up for work? ...
If you get elected to office, is it going to make a difference when you show up and someone says here is a list of ethics you need to acquire to work here? I'm thinking, if you don't have your own code of ethics before you show up in Tallahassee then getting a directive from OOG isn't going to change things.
"Jeb!" Will Not Be In Attendance
"Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Fred Lewis turns teacher today in an effort to help students understand the 'constitutional doctrines' of government." "Supreme Court chief to teach government to students".
So nice to know that more than half a million Floridians make less than $7.25 an hour; one suspects their benefit packages are equally impressive. "540,000 workers in Florida could get boost from increase in U.S. minimum wage".
No "Surge" Support
The Palm Beach Post: "With the exception of Sen. Mel Martinez, the only Republican in Congress who represents voters in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, local lawmakers said in anticipation of Bush's speech tonight that they would not support a 'surge' in U.S. troop strength in Iraq." "Area lawmakers cool to adding troops". See also "Many S. Floridians opposed as Bush gets ready to boost U.S. troops in Iraq".
"Starbucks will miss Harris".
"Giving the no-vote option bona fide placement on the ballot, in each race, highlights the possibility that it could 'beat' the actual candidates. In such an event, how would election officials proceed? Would existing statutes need revisions? These questions aren't resolved by [Bradenton legislator, state Sen. Mike] Bennett's legislation. It needs more thought." "The no-vote option".
"Many schools start too early, but that's not an issue legislators should decide." "Let local boards feel heat".
At Least He Didn't Read "My Pet Goat"
"Crist answered questions from Tallahassee high school students in the first of what he hopes will be weekly informal sessions with Floridians." "Crist hosts students in first weekly chat". See also "Lincoln students meet governor" and "Students bend governor's ear".
Out In The Fields ...
"Shoddy record-keeping is making it hard for regulators to enforce pesticide laws in farm fields." "Plow under growers' dodge".
Long Range Planning
"Nelson has $1.3 mil socked away...for 2012".
"Lawmakers planning town hall meetings on property tax reform".
Dead Manatee Zone
"Manatee deaths in Florida hit 416 in 2006, the highest number since record-keeping started more than 30 years ago." "35 agencies looking out for manatees". See also "Manatee deaths most ever in Martin, state".
Go figure: Even though manatees are being killed at a record pace, "the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's proposal to downgrade manatees from an endangered to a threatened species." "Manatee deaths a record"
"Rep. Alcee Hastings is suggesting his fellow Florida members of Congress chip in some of their allowance money to hire staffers for the Florida delegation. The two staffers would focus on tracking critical Florida legislation, Hastings, D-Miramar, said in a letter to his colleagues, including Everglades restoration, veterans' affairs, military construction, disaster preparation, immigration and taxes." "Team Florida".
Romney Courts Florida Fringe
"Orlando attorney John Stemberger, who is spearheading a petition drive for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, is meeting with Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney this week." "Romney courting religious conservatives in Florida".
Florida Family Association Barks, Pruitt Folds
Gubernatorial appointments up for Senate confirmation were to fill out a questionnaire
asking applicants if they had ever been complained about or investigated for discriminating against or harassing someone based on "sexual orientation," as well as race, origin, gender, age and religion, etc. It also asked about DUIs."Controversial Questions Withdrawn".
The Florida Family Association urged its members to protest that question, saying they didn't think sexual orientation-type complaints should be questioned, because Florida Statutes don't consider sexual orientation a protected category.
Pruitt, in consultation with the ethics and elections committee, decided the old form (which a number of applicants to be confirmed had already filled out) worked well enough. ...
the Florida Family Association sent an email to its members touting victory.
"If this rule of questioning had been approved for the Florida Governor’s administration by a Republican controlled Florida Senate, what could have been next, adding 'sexual orientation' to the Florida Civil Rights Act thereby creating a gay rights law?"
"In a meeting with his policy chairs, Senate President Ken Pruitt just iterated his hands-off, love-for-all-senators principles. The one-time highly partisan Republican promised more bipartisanship (again) and 'no dictates from the fourth floor,' where his office is located." "Sen. President's beatitudes".