"Democrats who captured GOP seats in Tallahassee and Washington have no time to rest on their laurels." "Democrats warned: GOP wants seats back".
Handy Hits the Bricks
"Winter Park entrepreneur Phil Handy, who as chairman of the State Board of Education marshaled through Jeb Bush's education-reform plan, reversed course Monday and announced he will not serve another term on the panel."
Handy joins another Bush loyalist, Education Commissioner John Winn, who announced his resignation Jan. 12, 10 days after Gov.Charlie Crist took office. Both men had vowed to work within the system despite the new leadership."Handy quits state job for McCain post". See also "Another Jeb ally folds tent", "Phil Handy is movin' on up" and "Handy won't seek reappointment to state Board of Education".
Handy's departure signals two things: Crist's stamp on the Education Department, and Handy's emerging presence in the national political arena.
More from the Values Crowd
"State disability administrators are recommending dramatic cuts to a program that provides therapy and services to thousands of disabled Floridians in the wake of an anticipated $230 million in deficits over the next 18 months."
Staff members at the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities have told lawmakers they anticipate a $115.5 million deficit in the community services department for the current budget year, which ends in June, and a deficit of $112 million for the 2007-2008 budget year."Disabilities agency expects deficit, urges cutbacks in care".
To offset the projected shortfalls, agency administrators recommend in a January memo an ''immediate'' halt to new enrollment of disabled Floridians in ''crisis,'' which brings about 500 new clients into the program each year. To qualify for funding, candidates have to show they are either homeless or at risk of great harm.
Administrators also recommend that the state stop enrolling disabled children who live in foster care. Last year, lawmakers set aside close to $25 million to add about 340 foster children to the program. To date, 274 of the foster kids are enrolled, though most still are not receiving taxpayer-funded services, records show.
All About Charlie
"The major reason for the historic shift was Gov. Charlie Crist, who used relentless cheeriness, vitriolic attacks on insurance companies and pleas to help average Floridians in cajoling lawmakers." "Governor key to shift in Legislature".
They Love Us Only For Our Money?
"As the 2008 presidential primary races get under way, Republican candidates - particularly John McCain and Mitt Romney - are working frantically to build Florida organizations."
Floridians are hearing less from and about the Democratic candidates, and some Democratic donors and dedicated campaign volunteers are starting to wonder why."Democrats' White House Plans Not Evident In Florida". See also "Florida - The ATM Machine".
"Almost unanimously, the Florida Legislature on Monday voted to give homeowners a break from soaring property insurance premiums, promising rate cuts between 10 and 55 percent on their hurricane coverage." "Legislators pass plan promising 10% to 55% cuts in property insurance rates". See also "Insurance relief deal reached; session ends", "Special session produces bill, relief", "Insurance measure elicits grumbles from industry", "Crist declares a win; cuts vary widely", "Ban on forced switch fulfills promise", "Insurance lobbyists predict doom and gloom", "Bill To Give Insurance Relief", "Deal may cut rates up to 40%", "State takes on more risk to give insurance relief", "Homeowners hope relief is just around the corner", "Legislator: What about agents?", "Reform leaves some with uneasy feeling" and "Legislators play odds to reduce premiums".
What does it mean? See "Provisions of the agreement", "Insurance relief depends on location", "Premiums may fall, but all bets are off if catastrophe strikes", "How much you will save is still unclear", "Insurance agreement Q&A", "2007 Capitol roundup", "Answers to more of your insurance questions" and "Highlights of Insurance Overhaul".
The kudos are rolling in: "In just seven days, Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Legislature crafted a more pragmatic approach to easing the property insurance crisis than the last governor and Legislature produced all of last year." "The insurance fix". See also "Resuscitated".
Some editors are keeping their powder dry: "The curtain is falling on the special legislative session focusing on property insurance. But we consider it intermission. Much still needs to get resolved before we and the rest of the session's audience, the state's property owners, will truly be able to tell whether we got our money's worth." "Need 2nd act". See also "Not enough rate relief, but enough of a start".
And then there is the political angle: Crist had "called for rate relief that was substantial, broad-based and immediate. Whether he got it is subject to broad interpretation, depending on where people live and where they buy insurance." But "'Anemic' is Rep. Dan Gelber's term for the relief". More: "'I feel like we have failed the governor, and ultimately we have failed the people of Florida,' said Rep. Luis Garcia, D-Miami Beach, who said his constituents will not see a major rate cut." "Insurance reform a win for Crist".
The media has no reservations (note that this is not from an editorial): "He walks away from the session with eye-catching headlines of having met a promise of big rate relief and for having poked the eye of the powerful insurance industry lobby." "Gov. Crist emerges looking like the big winner".
"Some critics say higher FCAT scores result from 'teaching to the test,' meaning the gains were more because of test preparation than real learning. But because teachers don't know what's on the NAEP and don't directly prepare students for it, Bush supporters have pointed to it as proof that their approach is working." "National test to rank Florida kids".
Christine Jennings in the House
"Democrat Christine Jennings will be the guest of U.S. Rep. Ellen Tauscher of California at President's Bush State of the Union Address on Tuesday night." "Jennings will attend State of the Union". See also "Not Going Away" and "Don't look up, Vern".
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Miami-Dade voters will make a decision today that can dramatically affect local politics and the quality of life for the county's 2.3 million residents -- and the lives of many millions more residents in years to come. This makes today's special election on a proposal to give the county mayor more power a really big deal. You should make sure that your vote is among those that are counted in this important referendum." "Remember: Vote today". See also "Turnout for Miami-Dade strong-mayor vote likely to be low".
Sustainable Florida Report
"A new commission studying the state's future has delivered its first report to Gov. Charlie Crist and the Legislature, and it's not lacking in ambition."
The Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida says the state needs to figure out how to deal with global warming, work toward weaning the state off foreign oil, research the state's long-term water supply and map out what environmentally sensitive land deserves to be preserved from development."50-year fears are panel's 1st focus".
Our Civil Rights Warrior
The ACLU guest column we noted yesterday (Charlie The Civil Rights Warrior) appears in the Tallahassee Democrat today: "Crist could be Florida's 'civil-rights governor'".
"Florida lawmakers differ on whether President Bush heads into his sixth State of the Union address in a position to dictate the terms of his final two years in office or so weakened by events that it doesn't much matter what he says." "Florida legislators split on President Bush's effectiveness".
"Sponsors of a citizen initiative allowing slot machines in two South Florida counties Monday asked the Florida Supreme Court to delay a trial on a challenge to the state constitutional amendment until the justices rule on related issues." "Slot machine backers want appeal before trial".
"The representatives Broward voters have sent to Washington, D.C., are different demographically, generationally and politically from most of Florida and much of the nation. The six are either black, Latino or Jewish." "Legislators take on new look".
Brian Crowley: "Justice report faults FBI on Foley, says agents should have done more". See also "FBI chided for inaction in Foley case".
The Grant is in the Mail
"Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced the distribution of the inspection reports and applications in a news release Monday. About 14,000 homeowners received inspections during the initial phase of the program, which seeks to fortify homes against hurricanes." "Home inspection report, grant form on way". See also "Gambling on hurricane shutters - with Florida as my bookie".
Mel Speaks ...
We missed this the other day: "Mel Martinez talks about his new job" (via The Buzz).
The Miami Herald was apparently listening: "The incoming chairman of the Republican Party delivered an urgent message to the GOP leadership last week: Don't shut anyone out. This is a message the party needs to heed unless it wants to go the way of the Whigs, the Prohibitionists and the Know-Nothings." "Opening GOP's door".