the veteran educator who rose to the job of state education commissioner under former Gov. Jeb Bush and was a champion of Bush's education reforms, abruptly announced his retirement on Friday."Florida's top school official resigns". See also "State, Crist In A Lose Winn Situation", "Bush's education czar quits", "State education commissioner Winn to retire", "State education chief retires" and "Crist will put stamp on Education Department".
Winn said last year he had no plans to leave his job, but his departure appeared imminent after Gov. Charlie Crist announced earlier this week he was removing two supporters of Winn from the state Board of Education. The seven-member board has the power to hire and fire the education commissioner.
Crist waned Winn out: "one close Crist adviser said privately. 'Getting rid of him was the real work,' the adviser said. 'And it got done without any blood.'" "Education chief retiring after Crist hints at switch".
"Small Government"? GOP Reaps What It Sows
"Jeb!" wanted to empty state buildings; and this week. we've been hearing a lot about Florida's "small government" Republicans who are willing to make an exception on the insurance issue (e.g., Crist says he's "a small government guy"). Let's remember what that means:
The state agency charged with protecting patrons of hotels and restaurants has not inspected enough businesses to meet state law in at least two years and does not expect to be able to comply this year.Oh yeah, there can be serious consequences:
The issue, highlighted in a legislative committee meeting this week, comes on the heels of the carbon monoxide poisoning of a 26-year-old man in a Key West resort."Many hotels escape scrutiny".
The suspected cause of his death is a malfunctioning boiler, one of 44 items that is supposed to be checked by inspectors at the division of hotels and restaurants, part of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Reservations on Insurance Plans
Are we looking at another band-aid?
As they return to the Capitol Tuesday for a weeklong special session aimed at lowering Floridians' property insurance bills, legislators have a difficult balancing act. They need to make insurance affordable -- and they have committed to passing legislation that will cut rates at least some for now."Lawmakers close on insurance fix, but is it solution?". Indeed,
But they also would like to fix the problem structurally, to avoid having to address it again each year. And they'd like to avoid chasing all private insurance companies away, leaving state government as Florida's only property insurer.
many analysts feel that any immediate savings will come only because the state is taking over a large portion of risk."Cost Of Insurance May Be Cut By State Assuming More Risk". See also "Impact of rate relief in question".
In other words, in the past, private companies were on the hook for potentially tens of billions of dollars in claims from a huge storm. If the new bills pass, taxpayers will take on more of that risk.
Some say that's a recipe for disaster, while others think it makes sense for hard-pressed consumers.
"If manatees are doing better, as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission insisted last year when moving to reclassify them from "endangered" to "threatened," state statistics don't show it." "Premature on manatees".
"For the second time in a week, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, has broken with his party to vote with Democrats." "Buchanan votes with Democrats again".
Lethal Injection Panel
"Crist named former Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Harry Singletary and four other members Friday to a panel that will study the state's lethal injection procedure following a botched execution." "Crist names his choices to lethal injection panel".
Backtracking on Dubya
"The escalating violence in Iraq and President Bush's call for a 'surge' in troops is dividing staunchly Republican House members in Florida, some of whom question whether the new strategy can succeed."
Orlando Rep. Ric Keller, a conservative Republican, took to the floor this week to say he disagreed with Bush. ''The American people have paid the ultimate price for this war, and now is not the time to escalate the tragedy even further,'' he said."Troop 'surge' divides GOP in Florida". See also "New plan for Iraq poses GOP dilemma".
Keller, who acknowledged Friday that his words have set off a ''firestorm'' in his mostly Republican district, said "a lot of members feel the same way. They're just not comfortable saying it."
Republican Flip-flop on Insurance
The Tampa Trib has a great review of the Florida Republican flip-flop on insurance.
It's a far cry from last year, when industry lobbyists helped write a bill passed in the waning hours of the legislative session that contributed to insurance premium spikes. It's well beyond the expectations expressed when the special session was ordered in late November."What Tipped The Scales?".
Romney Not Enough of a Winger for Florida?
"Florida's leading religious conservatives grilled Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney on Friday over his changed positions on gay rights and abortion, suggesting the former Massachusetts governor could be a tough sell for the party's influential right wing." Check out this crowd:
About 35 people met with Romney at the Orlando law office of state Rep. Dean Cannon, who is slated to become the leader of the Florida House in 2010. The candidate fielded tough questions for more than an hour."Pols question Romney on issues". See also "Romney confirms stance on right to bear arms".
''People had very valid questions on how and why his views on social issues had changed over the years.'' said state Rep. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican. `"These are people that can move and shake a lot of voters in the primary.''
''They were straightforward questions, and he hit them head on,'' said Mark Merrill, a conservative radio show host based in Tampa. "I was impressed.''
Two Central Florida politicians in good stead with Christian conservatives were asked to participate in the meeting with Romney, a Mormon. U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, who has pushed abortion limits and school prayer, praised Romney via speaker phone from Washington. State Rep. Dennis Baxley, who sponsored legislation to keep the severely brain-damaged Terri Schiavo alive, noted that Romney has been married for more than 35 years and has five sons.
The Miami Herald has "excerpts from a report released Monday by the Consumer Federation of America (www.consumerfed. org), 'Property/Casualty Insurance in 2007: Overpriced Insurance, Underpaid Claims, Declining Losses and Unjustified Profits.'" "Insurers today enjoy healthy profits".
"Florida's space-development agency has been caught in the winds of political change. Among the 283 gubernatorial appointments recalled this week by Gov. Charlie Crist were 12 spots on the new Space Florida board of directors, assembled just last August." "Crist recalls space agency directors".
Democrat "Ben Graber, the former Broward County commissioner and state representative, is plotting a 2008 primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton." "Former Broward commissioner Ben Graber eyes run for U.S. House".
"At first glance, it all seems like overkill. The Broward State Attorney's Office, trying to shut down adult game rooms, filed a public nuisance lawsuit. Please. What could possibly be the problem with a bunch of mostly elderly people getting together and socializing and pressing buttons in penny machines for a chance to win gift certificates?" "Gaming".
Steve Bousquet on the PBA: "Union carries weight - fit or not".
"Isilio Arriaga, one of two Public Service Commission members deposed this week by Gov. Charlie Crist, says he will not challenge the legality of the governor's decision." "PSC's Arriaga won't fight dismissal".
"Wasting Money on the Private Sector"
AFSCME President Gerald in the Tallahassee Democrat today, "Wasting money on the private sector":
Here in Florida, Jeb Bush came to office bragging about his desire to privatize 25 percent of state government - and left with a string of scandal-plagued outsourcing deals widely considered to represent his administration's greatest failure.Read the rest of it here.
The Florida corrections system was rife with kickbacks, fraud and criminal prosecutions. The state personnel system compromised workers' personal information and couldn't issue checks on time. The child welfare system wasted taxpayer dollars and saw an increase in abuse cases. Each of these public functions was entrusted to the private sector, to disastrous effect.
This idea of public service itself as a motivator was once widely understood in this country.
"Frozen Cuban assets are target of multimillion-dollar lawsuits". See also "Judgments against the Cuban government".
"Justice Sometimes is a Blue Light Special."
Daniel Ruth explains that "Justice sometimes is a blue light special." "It's Not Total Justice, But It'll Have To Do".
"Congressional legislation to impose a conservation fee on oil and natural gas from the Gulf of Mexico if prices remain high would reduce pressure to drill off Florida's shores, a National Wildlife Federation spokesman said Friday." "Wildlife Federation links energy bill to Florida drilling".
"Finger in the Dike"
"Late last year, one branch of state government, the courts, told the executive and legislative branches that the treatment of mentally ill inmates was criminal. Literally."
This past week a legislative budget panel made some progress by allocating $16.6 million to provide 373 new beds at treatment facilities for the mentally ill inmates."Clear message". See also "At last, help for ill": "What does it take to provide timely treatment to Florida's mentally ill inmate population? Maybe it takes an angry judge who makes news by threatening a public official with jail?"
But it's only a stopgap and far from being a meaningful solution.
The sad truth is that county jails around the state have become warehouses for many mentally ill people who can't afford treatment. That's not just wrong, it's outrageous. ...
Unless the state wants to continue to act as the boy with his finger in the dike, Gov. Charlie Crist's administration and lawmakers must craft a more comprehensive solution to the treatment of mentally ill, indigent inmates. That's the clear message from the courts.
That would be the legal thing to do, but also the right thing - ethically and, in the long run, financially.
"The head of the U.S. government's programs to promote democracy in Cuba and Latin America announced he was leaving to help guide Sen. John McCain's tentative run for president." "Chief of Cuba programs to go work for McCain".