"Crist has set the special election to replace state Rep. John Quinones, R-Kissimmee, with a primary scheduled for March 20 and a general for April 24. The timing means the seat will be unoccupied for almost all of this year's legislative session." "Crist Sets Election to Replace Quinones." The Orlando Sentinel reports that,
so far, a pair of Democratic candidates -- Bill McManus, a former state legislator from Massachusetts, and Darren Soto, a commercial and civil-rights lawyer -- said they plan to run to succeed Quinones. Republican Anthony Suarez, who served in the Florida House as a Democrat before later switching parties, Friday announced his bid for the seat.Expect more folks to jump in on the Dem side.
"Teacher and state employee pay raises [2.4 percent for most state workers], stem cell research, quicker mental health treatment for jail inmates and replacement of touch-screen voting machines are part of the state spending plan proposed Friday by Gov. Charlie Crist." "Crist budget proposal stresses education, criminal justice". See also "Crist's budget big on schools, environment", "Education top priority in Crist's new budget", "Spending plan accents education", "Crist's budget boosts spending for schools", "Crist budget stresses education and justice", "Crist's $71-billion wish list", "Crist unveils proposed state budget" and "Crist budget true to promises". More detail: "Crist's main budget proposals".
And, despite the fanfare, "Florida's teachers' union was less [than] impressed when the governor offered to fund bonuses without fully addressing low wages." "Crist releases $71.2 billion state budget". See also "Gov. proposes pay increase" ("State employees would get a 2.44-percent pay raise on Oct. 1 and could compete for merit increases of up to 10 percent") and "Democrats on Crist's budget".
But overall the budget reflects more flip-flopping by Crist: "Crist's Budget Proposal Parts Ways With Bush".
State of Emergency
"Crist declared an emergency in four Central Florida counties and state disaster responders went on full alert for the storms and tornadoes that caused death and destruction early Friday morning." "Crist declares an emergency". See also "Crist declares state of emergency after fatal Central Fla. storm".
And, as emergency workers and residents do the heavy lifting, the editorial boards - in a demonstration of abject irrelevance - are already declaring that Charlie's meaningless press conferences just might be as good as Jebbie's meaningless press conferences were during the hurricanes:
this is Crist's first natural disaster as governor, and he appropriately dropped everything to be on the scene to show his commitment to help fellow residents deal with the trauma and rebuild their lives. He should not hesitate to follow the standards set by his predecessor. Former Gov. Jeb Bush was at his best following storms, providing leadership, getting Washington's attention and still leaving room for professionals to do their jobs."Crist tested by first crisis". Read more about how amazing Charlie is here: "A hands-on Crist dives into crisis".
One Man's Terrorist ...
"A federal judge on Friday denied a challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union of a Florida law banning state-paid travel by students, professors and researchers to Cuba and four other nations labeled terrorist states by the U.S. government."
The measure, signed into law May 30 by then-Gov. Jeb Bush, prohibits professors, students and researchers from using money administered by a public university or college — federal or state funds and even private foundation grants — to travel to any country listed as a terrorist state by the U.S. State Department. Besides Cuba, the list includes Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria."Judge upholds law banning state-paid trips to terrorist nations".
Of course, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter; for instance, "Jeb Bush, has been instrumental in securing the release from prison of militant Cuban exiles convicted of terrorist offences, according to ['Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana']", by Ann Louise Bardach, the award-winning investigative journalist who has covered Cuban and Miami politics for the New York Times and Vanity Fair. A review of the book notes the following:
The Bush family connections go back to 1984 when Jeb Bush began a close association with Camilo Padreda, a former intelligence officer with the Batista dictatorship overthrown by Fidel Castro. ..."The Bush dynasty and the Cuban criminals". More in Counterpunch: "Jeb Bush's Florida, a Terrorist Haven?".
Most controversially, at the request of Jeb, Mr Bush Sr intervened to release the convicted Cuban terrorist Orlando Bosch from prison and then granted him US residency.
According to the justice department in George Bush Sr's administration, Bosch had participated in more than 30 terrorist acts. ["Attorney General Dick Thornburgh called [Bosch] an 'unrepentant terrorist.'"] He was convicted of firing a rocket into a Polish ship which was on passage to Cuba. He was also implicated in the 1976 blowing-up of a Cubana plane flying to Havana from Venezuela in which all 73 civilians on board were killed.
CIA memorandums strongly suggest, according to Bardach's book, that Bosch was one of the conspirators, and quotes the then secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, as writing that the "US government had been planning to suggest Bosch's deportation before Cubana airlines crash took place for his suspected involvement in other terrorist acts and violation of his parole". ...
Bosch's release, often referred to in the US media as a pardon, was the result of pressure brought by hardline Cubans in Miami, with Jeb Bush serving as their point man. Bosch now lives in Miami and remains unrepentant about his militant activities, according to Bardach. ...
Jeb Bush nominated Raoul Cantero, the grandson of Batista, as a Florida supreme court judge despite his lack of experience. Mr Cantero had previously represented Bosch and acted as his spokesman, once describing Bosch on Miami radio as a "great Cuban patriot".
For more on (now Justice) Cantero, see "Jeb, Florida's high court and terrorism" and "Terrorist Connections Resurface In Florida".
Will Charlie Crack a Book?
Despite Scott Maxwell's misgivings (will Charlie "crack open a budget book to make sure he really understands what he's proposing?"), one hopes Charlie takes the time to read this report:
A new state report has bad news for one of the key tax reform proposals being discussed by lawmakers this year."Save Our Homes tax plan questioned".
Allowing Florida residents to carry the Save Our Homes property assessment cap from home to home is probably unconstitutional, and it could cost the state millions, if not billions, of dollars if it wer
"At least three insurers plan to restrict or stop writing policies in Florida in reaction to new legislation, an emergency order freezing rates and cancellations, and the general risk of hurricane losses." "Some insurers plan to stop doing business in Florida". See also "Insurers Re-Evaluating In Face Of Reform Law".
"If you believe that global warming is really not your concern - too complicated, too distant - consider this:"
If sea levels rise 3 feet, as a 2004 University of Arizona computer model projected, much of Florida's coastal development will be submerged or uninhabitable."Scary prospect".
Eighty percent of Floridians live within 20 miles of the coast.
A 6-foot rise - a catastrophe almost beyond imagination - would submerge a large part of our state.
Get the picture?
Ahem ... "Civil societies don't rejoice at deaths"
The Sun-Sentinel editors write that City of Miami's official "planned festivity [celebrating Castro's impending expiration] that was in the works was wholly unacceptable."
Civil societies don't rejoice at deaths, regardless of how unpopular the deceased person was. If Miami officials want to mark Castro's passing, a more solemn gathering that reflects on the past and offers hope for future reconciliation and democracy would be more appropriate.
Jennings to Chamber
"Reliable sources say that Toni Jennings has lined up her next high-profile gig -- becoming chairman of the Florida Chamber of Commerce." "Jennings new job".
Pennies from Heaven
"The nation's minimum wage is inching closer to its first major increase in years, but few Florida workers will see it affect their paychecks."
The legislation, which still needs to be reconciled with the House version, would raise the minimum wage in three steps."Wage Hike's Delayed Effect".
It would go to $5.85 an hour upon taking effect 60 days after the president signs it into law, then to $6.55 an hour a year later, and to $7.25 an hour a year after that.
Today, an estimated 400,000 of Florida's 8.8 million workers are paid at the state's minimum: $6.67 an hour. That would revert to the federal rate only when it surpasses the state wage, May said.
A majority of states have a minimum at or above the federal wage. Eight states have a minimum wage above the proposed $7.25-an-hour rate.
"And there is still a lot more money to spend"
"Since resigning in late September amid allegations that he made inappropriate advances toward teenage interns, Foley has paid his sister more than $14,000 to run his campaign, almost $2,000 to lease a Volkswagen for the bygone campaign and an additional $50,000 to hire prominent criminal defense attorneys. And there is still a lot more money to spend." "Foley's money keeps flowing".
FlaDems "Relevant Again"?
"With Jeb Bush out and Charlie Crist in, Democrats have returned from their legislative Siberia. They're relevant again, and politics in the capital is more interesting as a result." "Democrats regain clout with Jeb's departure".
Early (Very Early) Sink Speculation
"Alex Sink may be planning to stick around and run for governor. Jim Cassady, the former Bank of America executive and longtime associate of Sink's, seemed to be confirming the speculation Friday as he spoke to Capital Tiger Bay." "Alex Sink for Gov?"
"The optical scanners sought by Crist -- and approved by Sarasota County voters in November -- probably won't cure all election woes. But they likely would prevent an undervote mystery because the paper ballots are marked directly by voters, without intervening software that may garble voter intent. The ballot itself stands as evidence for reviewing and recounts, if necessary." "Toward a better ballot".
"An appellate court Friday ordered the Department of Children and Families to release records to the attorney of five Brevard County children suspected of being abused." "Court: DCF must turn over files to family's attorney".
"Convicts released from Florida prisons are supposed to get $100 and a bus ticket home, but that's not nearly enough to help them reintegrate themselves back into society." "A safety net".
"Fundraising For District 4 Seat Outpaces Mayoral Race".
The Buzz reports that "Roll Call's Lou Jacobson wrote up his recent lunchtime chat with assorted Fl reporters, political consultants and political scientists about the political climate in Florida."
Save the Manatees
Patrick Rose, an aquatic biologist, and executive director of Save the Manatee Club, argues that the "Level of manatee deaths unacceptable".
South Florida Water Management District
The Palm Beach Post editors on the South Florida Water Management District Board:
For nearly a decade, the board has been without advocates for the environment. This board oversees management of Lake Okeechobee and restoration of the Everglades and the Kissimmee River. Under Gov. Bush, lake cleanup was not a priority until last year. Everglades restoration suffered as Gov. Bush sacrificed true partnership with the federal government. He also bowed to pressure from the sugar industry to allow polluted water to be pumped into the Everglades until 2016, 10 years longer than the previous deadline. The district demoted, transferred and cut the pay of a scientist directing Kissimmee River restoration, which finally seems to be back on track.And this tid bit on how the appointments process has worked:
The district has been on the wrong side of water-quality issues, too often abetted by the Department of Environmental Protection. A tough board conscious of environmental issues should make the district a leader on all these matters.
Kevin McCarty reportedly wants to remain on the board, and he has the political connections that could keep him there. Mr. McCarty is married to Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty, whose brother, Brian Ballard, was Gov. Crist's biggest fund-raiser. Here's a perfect opportunity for Gov. Crist to show his independence again, not only from former Gov. Bush's administration but from all political cronyism."Turn water district green".
"Central Florida storms kill flock of endangered whooping cranes".