Today's Florida political news and punditry.
"Martinez Is Out Of Step" With Florida
It didn't take long to see that Mel's loyalty lies with the RNC and not the Floridians who elected him.
When U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez was speaking on the Senate floor about a bill that would put certain limits on offshore drilling in the gulf, he worried aloud about the toll high energy bills were taking on "struggling families who sit around the kitchen table to find the budget busted by yet ever-increasing energy costs.""Stingy senators block pay to poor".
But the compassion the Florida Republican had for the state's financially strapped families now seems to have faded. Martinez, who is also chairman of the Republican National Committee, has joined with other members of his party to block an increase in the federal minimum wage unless billions of dollars in tax breaks for small businesses are part of the deal.
On Wednesday, the Senate voted 54 to 43 to advance a wage bill that did not include the tax breaks for business. It was six votes short of what was needed, with Martinez part of the opposition. ...
Floridians approved a state constitutional amendment raising the state minimum wage in 2004. Martinez is out of step with his constituents and the rest of the nation.
Can Florida GOP "Clean Up Party Image"?
"State [GOP] officials hope to clean up party image"
Florida Republican Party leaders said Friday they can regain control of Congress and strengthen their dominance of state politics by recruiting candidates early, avoiding the scandals that hurt the GOP last year, exploiting new media on the Internet - and counting on Democrats to ''turn off'' voters with liberal policies. ..."GOP wants to be 'the party of reform'".
Jordan is scheduled to turn over the state chairmanship to Gov. Charlie Crist's choice for the job, Jim Greer, today. She said she leaves the party in good shape financially, having raised nearly $62 million last year and holding more than $1 million on hand for the start of the non-election year.
For more on Greer - "a self-made millionaire who helps clients comply with state liquor and food regulations" - see today's "A leapfrog to GOP's top".
Crist's annointed RPOF chair, Jim Greer, is facing a challenge from the incumbent: "supporters of the current chairwoman, Carole Jean Jordan, were quietly trying to line up support for her re-election." "RPOF musical chairs". Carole Jean ain't happy, remarking this [Saturday] morning that "'We don't have time for on the job training,' Carole Jean Jordan said in accepting the nomination to challenge Charlie Crist's pick for state GOP chief, Jim Greer." "Carole Jean challenges Greer".
Dissing the "Amen Chorus of Goose-stepping Legislators"
Charlie apparently froze out the House's "amen chorus of goose-stepping legislators" in the insurance discussions:
Although Bush had allied himself with conservative House leaders who typically gave him whatever he wanted, Crist turned to the more moderate Senate Republicans as well as Democrats in both chambers - in particular House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber of Miami Beach and Rep. Jack Seiler of Wilton Manors."Crist wins lawmakers' raves, respect".
"They're great men," Crist said of Gelber and Seiler. "They're very bright. And they work very hard, and they were actually writing the bills instead of the industry."
The result was that House leaders who for eight years had grown accustomed to a strong governor providing them political and intellectual backing suddenly found themselves bereft, observers said.
When some House Republicans attempted to cut Democrats out of the loop and negotiate only with Senate Republicans, they were turned down, top senators said.
Top House Republicans denied that they were outmaneuvered and said they are comfortable with the shift in alignment.
"I don't find it disconcerting. It's actually a healthy part of the way our process works," said Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, who is in line to become House speaker in 2010 if Republicans maintain control of the chamber.
Note: The phrase "Jeb Bush And His Amen Chorus Of Goose-Stepping Legislators" originally appeared in a March 17, 2003 Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial that is no longer online
"A Systemic Problem"
"Here, again, is why Florida continues to suffer from a hodgepodge of too-often politically motivated policies that have failed to elevate higher education." "A systemic problem".
The Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial board:
The best solution is obvious: Build a single-payer system that offers a rational standard of care to all Americans. Getting there will require vision, hard work and political will. But meanwhile, too many families are suffering."Toward a cure".
Forced to pit daily survival needs against expensive care for which they have no insurance, Americans gamble every day with their health. And of the 46 million uninsured in the country, 3.6 million live in Florida.
That makes it a state problem, too -- just as it was in Massachusetts, California and four other states, where leaders determined they couldn't wait any longer for a federal solution. These states evolved plans that were ambitious, if flawed -- giving Florida leaders plenty of room to consider a remedy of their own.
The editors continue in a separate editorial:
- As of 2003, the United States spent by far more on health care, per individual, than any other developed nation -- $5,711 a year. The average for 18 other developed nations is $2,952. Americans aren't healthier for it. To the contrary. Life expectancy in the United States ranks among the lowest among those developed nations, and infant mortality among the highest. The notion that the United States has the best health-care system in the world is a popular one. It's also demonstrably false."Health insurance crisis".
- A consistently overlooked factor in health-care costs is the burden of premiums on paychecks, which often add up to the equivalent of the biggest and most regressive tax on those paychecks. Income taxes are applied progressively. The more a worker makes, the higher the tax rate (up to a point). Conversely, the less a worker makes, the lower the tax burden. Not so with health insurance premiums. In fact, the less a worker earns, the heavier the insurance burden.
- Meanwhile, since 1988, the cost of health insurance premiums has increased by an average of 10.2 percent per year -- more than three times the average 3.2 percent annual rate of inflation. Workers' wages haven't made a difference. They've increased an average of 3.28 percent a year, an increase virtually erased by inflation. By those measures, and considering the bite that health insurance premiums take out of the average worker's paycheck, workers have been getting poorer.
"Former Gov. Jeb Bush addresses a conservative summit [the National Review Institute] as his fellow Republicans ponder just how his last name will affect his political future." "Jeb Bush will tread friendly turf at conservative forum".
"More than $4.5 million in questionable payments to two companies that run five private prisons resulted from the state’s contract concessions, not overcharges by the firms, a top state official said Friday."
Department of Management Services Secretary Linda South blamed the concessions on the state’s now-defunct Correctional Privatization Commission after a Florida Senate leader asked for an investigation of her agency’s settlement with one of the companies. ..."Agency head: State to blame for questionable prison payments".
An audit indicated the state had paid GEO and Nashville-Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America more than $4.5 million for vacant jobs and other questionable expenses. ...
The company also has a contract to run the new Graceville Correctional Facility, still under construction, said Management Services spokeswoman Tiffany Koenigkramer. ...
No settlement yet has been reached with CCA, which runs three Florida correctional facilities: Lake City, Bay in Panama City and Gadsden in Quincy.
The bottom line in the GEO deal is "about 10 cents on your dollar that the state decided was a sensible arrangement - although the state is still negotiating with a second contractor, Corrections Corporation of America, which also received overpayments." "Oversight?".
Even FPL Can See It
"Concern over global warming is no longer all about Al Gore and his slides of suffering polar bears. The issue has been embraced by some of America's largest corporations, including General Electric, Alcoa, DuPont and locally based FPL Group. They are reframing a debate over science to one over how to apply American knowhow to avert a crisis. Suddenly, caring about global warming is in vogue." "Warming to opportunity".
Soaring Property Taxes
"House speaker aims to lead a charge against the second major economic obstacle facing Floridians: soaring property taxes." "Rubio seeks new property tax limits".
"Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent will get to use 800 touch-screen voting machines for local elections in March, after her lawyers made a deal with Democratic congressional candidate Christine Jennings." "Deal frees 800 machines for March election".
"Free-enterprise" Safe in our Schools
"Gov. Charlie Crist appointed philanthropist and free-enterprise advocate Gus A. Stavros on Friday to the Board of Governors, which oversees Florida's 11 state universities." This "free-enterprise advocate" seems uniquely qualified to set education policy, after all
Stavros made his fortune manufacturing business formsOn top of that:
Florida State University and the University of South Florida each have a Gus A. Stavros Center for Free Enterprise and Economic Education."Crist fills universities board seat".
The Gus A. Stavros Institute in Largo provides free-enterprise experiences for school children.
How ironic that read today that Florida's "schools long ago stopped emphasizing social studies." Indeed,
- Florida ranks very low in the percentage of adults who vote."On a drive to educate Floridians on civics".
- A majority of residents can't identify either of Florida's U. S. senators and struggle mightily to name the three branches of government.
- Fewer Floridians volunteer time to a civic activity than in most other states.
"The FBI had a special obligation when first presented with troubling e-mails that then-U.S. Rep. Mark Foley of Florida sent to a former teenage page. The agency should have known that politics and the odd content of the e-mails put the agency in a unique position to dig further and ensure that the powerless were adequately protected from the powerful. But a report this week by the Justice Department's inspector general shows the nation's top law enforcement agency dodged its job and tried to shift the blame for shirking its responsibility." "FBI shirks duty". See also "Foley Case".
"Confederate flag divides school." "Free Speech".
That Time Again
"The start of the Legislature's 2007 regular session is fast approaching, which means lawmakers are scurrying to squeeze donors for campaign contributions before the opening gavel." "Lobbyists, Get Your Wallets Ready".
Sink Gets to Work
"With the insurance bill passed, the state's CFO will focus on helping residents understand the law's risks -- and other priorities." "AP Interview: CFO Alex Sink lists her priorities".
Out in the Fields ...
"The farm boss lured recruits from homeless shelters with promises of good work and steady pay, yet when the destitute arrived at the East Palatka camp of Ronald Evans Sr., they faced a different reality: a hovel-turned-open-market bazaar filled with crack, booze and cigarettes sold from the ''company store.'' Evans docked workers' pay so steeply they pocketed just 30 cents on the dollar." "Farm boss gets 30-year term". See also "Labor camp owner sentenced to 30 years".
Here's An Idea: Decent Salaries for Teachers
Karen Aronowitz, president of United Teachers of Dade has the audacity to suggest that "what masquerades as educational policy around this state is really a bitter discussion about money -- who gets it and who does not -- and how we label the recipients of those dollars." "Good salaries retain good teachers".
"Teachers, firefighters, police and other essential-services personnel who are being priced out of Central Florida's housing market in Orange and Osceola counties got a boost Friday from a state program that awarded $10 million to build affordable dwellings for them." "Housing too pricey? Aid exists -- for some".
"Jeb!"-fanatic Willard T. Fair is at it again:
John Winn, the retiring Florida education commissioner, got quite the compliment this week from T. Willard Fair, chairman of the Board of Education. At a board meeting in Tallahassee, Fair, who is black, likened Winn, who is white, to Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and black power activist Angela Davis. Winn is "radical," said Fair, who heads the Urban League of Greater Miami. "I never saw him cave when there was controversy." Winn is pretty much the Wizard of Oz behind high-stakes use of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. Fair told fellow board members that he has a "black wall" at home featuring photos of King, Malcolm X and other black leaders. Winn will be the wall's first white member."Education leader joins a rank of blacks".
From the Values Crowd
"Two and a half years after Florida lawmakers created the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities with an eye toward streamlining and improving care for about 30,000 disabled Floridians, some lawmakers now support killing the trouble-plagued department. ... Family members and advocates for people with disabilities have complained for years that the state rations services for a population that is often extremely fragile. More than 13,000 Floridians are on a wait list for community services, and thousands more are receiving fewer services than they say they need." "Leaders seek fix for ailing agency".
"Tax Cut, Sex Offender Issues Split Council Candidates".
Businesses to Benefit
"Florida's new insurance law promises to provide relief for homeowners. But it also might address an even more urgent crisis: the inability of some businesses to find coverage at all." "Businesses stand to benefit from wider Citizens coverage".
The People's Governor
"Traube and Chester made the trip after their teaching privileges were suspended or severely restricted by the Lee County School District. Traube, president of the Lee County substitute teacher association, was put on a do-not-call list for the entire district." "Banned subs get snubbed by governor".