"L. Clayton 'Clay' Roberts, who was director of the state Division of Elections during the 2000 presidential election and who helped oversee the ensuing recount, was named Friday to an appeals court by Gov. Charlie Crist." Charlie thinks Clay is just swell, pulling this cute stunt:
Crist and Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp went to the Florida State University’s law school, where Roberts, an adjunct instructor, was co-teaching a class in constitutional law, to inform him of his appointment Thursday.Charlie apparently was unconcerned that "Roberts was at the center of the dispute when the race between George W. Bush and Al Gore was too close to call in Florida, and the state was plunged into electoral uncertainty. He was the head of the state agency that shared responsibility for voting with the 67 county elections supervisors." "Recount figure Roberts appointed to judgeship". See also "Crist fills appeals-court slot".
They entered the classroom as Roberts and his teaching partner, Florida State President Emeritus Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, were leading a discussion on a timely topic: judicial appointments.
"He said, 'Hi, I’m Gov. Crist, and I’m here to make your professor a judge,'" Roberts said.
Special Session Gets Tense
"Exasperated legislators traded barbs in the state Capitol late Friday night as key members struggled with how to slash annual premiums for customers of private insurance companies and state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Still, they hope to reach an overall compromise as early as today on legislation to ease the state's property insurance crisis." "Debate in Capitol over insurance rates turns tense".
"Faced with the prospect of achieving minuscule savings for Citizens Property Insurance customers, Senate negotiators are urging House members to adopt a new plan that could slash Citizens rates by as much as 23 percent." "Senate Urges Widening Citizens' Scope".
"Scrambling to overhaul Florida's insurance system, lawmakers agreed Friday to prod more companies to sell property insurance and to give money-saving -- but potentially risky -- choices to homeowners."
House and Senate negotiators approved a controversial plan that would require auto insurers to sell property coverage in Florida if they also sell it in other states."Marathon legislative session continues". See also "Citizens debate stalls session".
At the same time, they decided to allow homeowners to buy high-deductible policies or to go without wind coverage as a way to hold down soaring premiums.
But with a special legislative session scheduled to end Monday, lawmakers were continuing to grapple with major issues, such as proposals to expand the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. to compete more with private insurers.
"Florida's largest insurance company can't afford to cut rates unless taxpayers pay for it. That's the conclusion legislators have reached in the final days of a special insurance session to seek rate cuts for Citizens Property Insurance policyholders and other homeowners statewide." "Citizens bailout by state is put on table".
Meanwhile, "Crist may not get everything he wants out of an insurance reform state lawmakers are negotiating, so on Friday he dialed up the people to make his point." "Crist appeals for fast rate relief".
See also "Senate Ponders Citizens' Scope", "'Real people' in Capitol refreshing", "Rate reformers step up pressure", "'Keep Stan in mind,' says Crist", "High-risk policies, reinsurance hobble Citizens debate", "To sell car insurance, some companies may have to cover homes" and "Insurance package may bring rate cuts".
Tampa Trib editors (yesterday): "Floridians pressing for an immediate reduction in property insurance rates have persuaded lawmakers to gamble the state's fiscal strength to grant that relief." "Lawmakers Will Risk State Budget To Reduce Insurance Rates".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "The Legislature still is working out the details of insurance reform, but the Legislature has worked out the concept: more self-insurance, less reliance on private insurance." "Put House plan at bat, with Senate's on deck".
"Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida took the helm of the Republican national party on Friday, vowing to reach out to black, Hispanic and 'all communities that may have never believed that Republican ideals spoke for them.'" "Martinez urges GOP to reach out". See also "Martinez Vows To Use GOP Post For Hispanic Outreach".
"Gloomy Picture of Higher Education in Florida"
"Low college tuition, the Bright Futures scholarship program and prepaid-tuition plans have created what could become a financial nightmare for the state, a consultant's report has found."
"All of these economic decisions, while fueled in many ways by good intentions, will bankrupt the state's higher education system if these fundamental policy issues are not revisited in a timely manner," according to the report, written by Alceste T. Pappas of the Connecticut-based Pappas Consulting Group."Consultant would revamp state's university system". See also "Study suggests 3 tiers of colleges" and "Report rips universities over undergraduate education" ("Florida's public universities have concentrated too much on glitzy research and professional programs while slighting undergraduates, according to a highly critical study that recommends sweeping, but politically unpopular, changes.")
The report paints a gloomy picture of higher education in Florida, suggesting that expensive research efforts and new medical schools have siphoned resources from undergraduate studies.
She proposes dramatic changes in the way the state pays for higher education, including higher tuitions.
"Many have benignly tolerated Florida's second-rate status - if for no other reason than we're in the South, a region where excellence in academics was perceived elsewhere as secondary to excellence in athletics."
Although elitism and prejudice fed those perceptions, they weren't completely off base. Now a consultant's report may further Florida's reputation for mediocrity - or spur an effort to make substantial improvements. We hope it's the latter."College try".
How "David beat Goliath"
"David beat Goliath twice in November."
With heavily tailored district lines, incumbents rarely lose any legislative race. But voters turned out two sitting state representatives who supported legislation now blamed for helping property insurance rates skyrocket. Both enjoyed a huge financial advantage, partly because of the largesse of insurance companies.Is it any wonder lawmakers in the middle of a special session on insurance rates are approaching things with a decidedly consumer bent?
Both seats went from Republican hands to the Democrats. The same factors applied in the five additional open seats Democrats took from Republicans, marking their first gains in Tallahassee in 20 years.
"It amazed me how some of these incredibly safe seats were challenged," said former state Rep. Randy Johnson, a Republican who helped draw the district boundaries in the state House six years ago. He called the election results stunning and an epiphany that sometimes it takes more than money to win."Anger Over Insurance Bedeviled Incumbents".
Companies dealing in all types of insurance, along with agents and others tied to the industry, donated $4.4 million to the Republican Party of Florida in the 2006 campaign. The Florida Democratic Party received $463,321, state records show.
"Rigorous Water Conservation Must Become Way Of Life".
How Green Is Our Charlie
"The mood is largely pinned on the uncertain promise of coaxing more maybes from Gov. Charlie Crist than activists heard from his predecessor. Environmentalists had hoped to hear Crist's views, but late Friday he canceled a speech tonight because of the continuing special legislative session on insurance. Leaders of key state and federal agencies say they'd be surprised by any dramatic shift from the course set by Gov. Jeb Bush." "Nature lovers hope Crist will listen".
"Environmentalists celebrated early this decade when Congress agreed to assist in a multibillion-dollar Everglades restoration. Most of the cash has never come."
At the annual Everglades Coalition conference Friday, the focus was twofold -- whether the coming year will see change in the so-far broken promise; and whether to expect breakthroughs in reviving the state's imperiled treasure."Everglades rescue goes back to basics". See also "Glades plan stagnation could end - http://www.sptimes.com/2007/01/20/State/Glades_plan_stagnatio.shtml".
"Mayor Pam Iorio, who grew up near the Hillsborough River, says she loves the waterway that runs through the heart of Tampa. She's excited the Riverwalk project will make the river the focal point of downtown. Yet her administration seems ready to fight efforts to dramatically increase fresh water flow to the lower river." "River's Health Should Be Priority".
Robert E. Lee
"A Hillsborough County proclamation honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on the 200th anniversary of his birth has rankled some black leaders, with one calling it a 'slap in the face' to minorities." "Florida county's honoring of Robert E. Lee rankles some".
Jebbie's "Ugly Pig"
Yesterday's Tallahassee Democrat: "Department of Management Services Secretary Linda South called ex-Gov. Jeb Bush's most ambitious privatization project 'an ugly pig' that she will have to make the most of, since there is no prospect of returning state personnel services back to government." "No evidence of information leak". See also "Audit finds lax security for workers' private data".
Precisely why is there "no prospect of returning state personnel services back to government"?
"City Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena secured another term when the deadline for candidates to qualify passed without anyone filing for her seat. Other city council incumbents weren't as fortunate." "None To Oppose Saul-Sena".
What? No "Dancing in the Streets"?
"Fidel Castro’s enemies in exile have long predicted that the end of his reign in Cuba would bring dancing in the streets, a mass exodus and a rapid transition to a U.S.-style democracy and market economy. But almost six months after Castro stepped aside due to illness, the transition has occurred — and with none of those changes." "Cuba’s post-Castro transition has already occurred, with no major changes".
In the meantime, "the Cuban government’s arts union Thursday backed protests against the recent reappearance of a former top censor blamed for Stalinist-type purges on artistic expression in the 1970s." "Cuban writers union backs protestors of reappearance of ex-censor".
"The unprecedented level of government scandal in Palm Beach County went higher Friday with the forced resignation of West Palm Beach City Commissioner Jim Exline, who faces a federal tax evasion charge over an alleged $60,000 in unreported income from 2004." "Scandals keep growing".
CD 13 Fallout
"District 13 voting machine dispute could complicate March election".
"Most everyone knows Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson is passionate about embryonic stem cell research. The question becomes, are developers capitalizing on that knowledge to try to buy influence with the commissioner?"
The fact that the question is even being asked suggests Aaronson has needlessly put himself in an untenable political position at the worst of times."Appearances".
"Disabled man appeals drug trafficking conviction to Supreme Court".
"U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney will help former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign by serving as a liaison to fiscal conservatives and organizations promoting fiscal responsibility in Washington." "Rep. Feeney to help Romney presidential campaign".
"Racist Screed Or Enlightened Work? State Song Stirs Up Folks At Home".
"On the Rocks"
"Another Florida insurance company is on the rocks." "State takes control of Vanguard".
"The lone Democrat elected to the Cabinet, Sink carries considerable clout in the debate playing out in Tallahassee. While lawmakers rushed this week to assemble the biggest rate-relief package, she paced the Capitol halls, meeting with nearly two dozen legislative leaders. Her message: balance the rush to cut rates or risk bankrupting the state." "CFO's job: Keep reforms from sinking state". See also "State's new CFO takes her time on insurance plans".