"Ask Florida's new chief financial officer about the private contracts on which the state spends $30 billion each year, and she smiles and says, 'We will be changing the way we do business in the state of Florida.'"
Why? For anyone who missed the past eight years of cronyism and kickbacks, the benevolent My Safe Florida Home program gives a snapshot of absentee accountability. ..."Make public the ripoffs from taking state private".
Ms. Sink's "new day, new way" message received a standing ovation last month from a meeting of about 150 state inspector generals and auditors, she said, some self-described as "unappreciated and beat down" during Jeb Bush's tenure. If she exposes the myths of improvement and savings to come from making Tallahassee's government buildings "empty of workers," as Gov. Bush intended, Florida's taxpayers also can applaud.
After All, They Are Just "Government Workers"
Jebbie's elimination of mandatory work safety standards is one Jebacy that GOPers - including Charlie - won't touch: "When federal investigators released a report last month about a deadly explosion in Daytona Beach, they tried to send a message: Florida needs to require minimum safety standards for government employees. But more than a month later, the request has gone nowhere." "Daytona plant explosion not lighting fires in Tallahassee". For more on this see "Special report: Deadly Blast".
Charlie A Dem At Heart
"After three months in office, Republican Gov. Charlie Crist has earned praise from surprising quarters - Democrats, environmentalists and even The Nation, which bills itself as America's leading journal of liberal political opinion."
Some conservatives, however, are starting to grumble about the record that earned Crist that praise, from advocating state action against global warming to restoring civil rights for felons."Governor Making GOP Wary".
Though he ran promising to maintain the legacy of former Gov. Jeb Bush, a hero to the conservative wing of the party, critics say Crist is chipping away at that legacy.
The grumbling so far is muted - only a few grass-roots-level party activists talk openly about it. ...
If the grumbling leads to a conservative rebellion against Crist, it could hamper his ability to move his legislative agenda and continue the bipartisan tone he has established in Tallahassee.
The Sales Tax
"Florida's sales tax has helped keep the state's checkbook balanced and credit rating so healthy over the years that it's one place lawmakers like to turn when searching for dollars. Since its 1949 debut as a 3-cent levy, the sales tax was increased by a penny in 1968, 1982 and 1988 to its present 6 percent level. Some legislators want to go there again to find the money to meet Gov. Charlie Crist's chief campaign goal of reducing property taxes." "When Fla. lawmakers need money, they look to the sales tax". See "Crist's politics getting greener".
"If Floridians are going to savor property-tax relief this year, the recipe will have a strong Democratic flavor. For the first time since Democrats lost power in 1996, they control the biggest issue at the top of the legislative agenda." "Dems hold a strong hand on tax reform".
"Conflicts Already Have Emerged"
"Mr. McCollum has signed on to run Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign in Florida, and potential conflicts already have emerged. For example, the ex-New York mayor favors expanded offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Florida often has had to take oil companies to court to restrict drilling. On this issue, will Mr. McCollum protect the interests of Floridians, or will he be inclined to favor the position of his candidate? Other questions will come up as the presidential race intensifies. As the state's top lawyer, Mr. McCollum has the obligation to keep partisanship and outside interests out of his office. His decision to work for Mr. Giuliani compromises his independence and invites politics inside the courtroom doors." "McCollum: Objection".
"Facing a crisis in a broken property tax system that threatens the state's future, Rubio reacted with a bold idea rooted in conservative "smaller government" ethos."
In doing so, he's set up a showdown with the Senate, which unanimously supports less than half of the tax cuts with no sales tax increase and smaller dents in local government budgets."Sarasota Democratic Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, a political science professor at New College, said Rubio's strong conservative bent may have missed the movement's best days."
Rubio has also placed his own political future on the line.
"He's not going to play it safe," said Al Cardenas, the former chairman of the state Republican Party who hired Rubio out of law school in the 1990s. "He's willing to take a risk."
"He's trying to be Ronald Reagan -- happy, genial, convivial, smart politically, always on message -- but on the other hand, hard right, trickle-down (economics), no government is good," said Fitzgerald. "I don't think right now that's what people want. They're not hard right; they don't want less government. They want government to start working again."This is a bit much:
Rubio's tax plan is ripped from conservative fiscal ideology known as supply-side economics. The concept proposes that fewer taxes leads to more economic activity and less government as its source of revenue is choked off.
It's a bold push with the strong rhetoric of Reagan and Jeb Bush.
Some see Rubio's effort as a way to bolster his conservative credentials as a future statewide or even national candidate. And Rubio is generally acclaimed as a political natural."House Speaker Rubio stays true to staunch conservatism".
"Marco is ... one of the best hopes that Florida has for greatness," King said. "I think this is just a temporary stopping-off place."
"It's one of the more controversial -- and confusing -- ideas in the current legislative debate over lowering property taxes: Portability." "Property tax relief: What is portability?".
Florida's Booming Economy
"A deluge of South Floridians are falling behind on their monthly house payments, raising fears that many of the delinquent property owners will lose their homes to foreclosure this year and next." "Late mortgage payments increase in South Florida".
Property Tax "Reform"
"State leaders are grappling with what may be the most sweeping tax reforms in Florida history, with competing plans in the House, Senate and Governor's Office that have the potential to affect virtually every Floridian." "What the tax plans would mean to you". See also "Tax relief's in eye of homeowner".
"It Doesn't Have to be This Way"
"To keep thousands of disabled people from losing services, Republican lawmakers in the Florida House have proposed a way to spend their way out of the problem:"
Take the money away from other needy people."Disabled kids caught in high-stakes game". See also "House: Cut pork to help disabled", "Plan could cover deficit in programs for disabled" and "Money Short For Hospitals, Poor".
The surprise proposal, made Saturday during budget negotiations, would help fill a deficit in a developmental disabilities program helping 25,000 people, but it comes at a cost of $30 million in lawmaker pet projects. They help, among other things, sick, wounded and disfigured kids at places like Miami Children's Hospital and Hollywood-based Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital.
And it doesn't have to be this way.
There's about $1 billion in unspent money that House Speaker Marco Rubio of West Miami and Senate President Ken Pruitt of Port St. Lucie have not allocated in the $70-plus billion budget for next year. They have repeatedly said they don't want to spend too much in a tight budget year when many will have to do with less.
But Republicans and Democrats in both chambers say it's time to pump more money into the tight-fisted section of the budget for health and human services -- making the House lawmakers' ante-raising maneuver a message both to legislative leaders and the entire Senate.
"Trump, city bring flag flap to close". See also "Flag flap between Trump, Palm Beach ends in settlement".
Hope Springs Eternal
"Springs are under-protected in the first place because few of their watersheds have been mapped to determine the extent of their drainage. It is critical to know how much land they need to recharge the aquifer and maintain flows to sustain ecosystems on the surface. State officials say it will take 60 years at the present pace to complete watershed mapping unless the Legislature expands the current two-person staff and $2.5 million budget devoted to that effort. But state lawmakers listen too readily to those who want to profit from less-regulated land uses in spring watersheds." "Aggressive state protection is necessity".
Adam Smith: "Biden and Dodd have been around and that's good".
Charlie Disses "Jeb!"
"In three months on the job, Crist has acted on issues beyond restoring rights and global warming that also won him praise from liberals, worried conservatives, and seemed to undercut the Jeb Bush legacy:"
- Bush appointees. Revoking appointments made by Bush and, in some cases, replacing them. Among them was removing former state Rep. Ken Littlefield, a religious conservative business advocate, from the state Public Service Commission and replacing him with Sen. Nancy Argenziano, known as a consumer advocate."A Streak Of Independence".
- Gay marriage. Announcing that he doesn't want the Republican Party to continue funding a constitutional amendment petition drive to ban gay marriage. Republicans had hoped having the initiative on the ballot would spur GOP voter turnout.
- Butterworth appointment. Naming a prominent Democrat, former Attorney General Bob Butterworth, as head of the Department of Children & Families.
- Wetlands regulation. Saying he would veto a bill to strip local governments of the authority to regulate destruction of wetlands by developers - a measure strongly favored by developers.
- Parkway foe. Opposing the Heartland Parkway, a proposed highway also favored by developers.
- Voting machines. Joining with U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, a liberal Boca Raton Democrat, to advocate new voting machines that include a paper record of votes cast. The touch-screen machines now in use were adopted during the Bush administration as the answer to the problems of the 2000 presidential election.
- Teacher meeting. Meeting in his office with representatives of the state teachers union, an organization scorned by Bush.
- Bonus pay. Advocating a teacher bonus pay plan less dependent on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT, than the one Bush proposed.
Keeping Their Powder Dry
"Of the more than $6.6-million raised from Florida in the first three months of 2007, just $138,000 came from the Tampa Bay area. Heck, Hillary Clinton raised more than that in one Palm Beach ZIP code. The Miami area funneled $1.98-million to the presidential candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics." "Bay area contributes only a trickle".
"Who'll pay to put power lines underground? Everyone, under FPL proposal".
"Five years after scandal, state still losing track of children in its custody".
"Pay to Play"
"For the past two months, a state lawmaker has waged a secret legal battle to keep her name out of a grand jury's report about 'pay to play' city politics."
State Rep. Mary Brandenburg, a mayoral appointee to the city's ethics task force who testified before the grand jury, has all but run out of motions in Palm Beach County Circuit Court to keep a redacted portion of the report from public view. Chief Circuit Judge Kathleen Kroll could release the sealed findings in as little as 30 days unless Brandenburg challenges the judge's decision with the 4th District Court of Appeal."Lawmaker tried to keep 'pay to play' findings sealed".
Brandenburg, D-West Palm Beach, maintained she wanted to delay its release only to avoid a distraction to her work in Tallahassee during the legislative session, scheduled to end May 4. "I am confident that I will not have any problems with doing anything that was illegal or that breaks any rules of the Florida House," she said.
"Rep. Kathy Castor is distancing herself from state Democratic chairwoman Karen Thurman's recent charge that Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, had let down veterans by not doing more to fix problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center." "Castor defends Young".
"Minimum Wage Rise Gets Closer".
"This surely wasn't the result former Gov. Jeb Bush had in mind when he pushed to privatize child-welfare services."
Embarrassing headlines. An FBI raid. And multiple inquiries into a string of thefts and allegations of fraud, kickbacks and security breaches at ChildNet, the agency that runs Broward County's child welfare system."Private child welfare doesn't mean better, or brighter".
On the bright side, no foster kids have died or gone missing in the latest scandal.
But it just shows that you can change the structure and change the name, but the song remains the same.
Florida in the Global Warming Cross Hairs
The Miami Herald had this yesterday: "Faster climate change is putting the heat on Florida to avert potential disasters -- soon" "Scientists: Climate clock is ticking in South Florida".