"Rep. Tom Feeney's controversial golf trip to Scotland in 2003 apparently was paid for by a foundation that Senate investigators described as a "slush fund" used by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff."
The foundation's connection is included among thousands of pages of Senate records and is the first evidence of who apparently paid for the trip, which has sparked an FBI probe. ..."Abramoff foundation may have funded Feeney Scotland trip".
As the investigation continues, two key areas of concern for Feeney could center on what precisely he disclosed as his share of the trip's costs and who sponsored the Scotland event.
Is there blood in the water? "The connection between U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Titusville, and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff is raising his name on the list of seats the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting next year, the group's chairman said Thursday." "Trip with Abramoff hurts Feeney Democrats target Tom Feeney's seat over ties".
"Today in Tallahassee". See also "Digest".
"The Senate today passed its more expansive version of a bill to provide paper trails for voters and move up the presidential primary to Jan. 29." "Early Primary Advances". See also "Florida Senate passes bill with voting machine money, earlier primary", "Senate Passes Early Presidential Primary Plus Paper Trail Bill", "Senate passes election reforms, but House support is waning" and "Earlier presidential primary advances".
The Florida Progressive Coalition: "Election Reform Bill Passes Senate!".
Update: "Senate President Ken Pruitt said a House plan to trade homeowner property tax relief for increased sales tax must be taken off the table before the talks can continue." "Senators Suspend Debate On Property Tax Switch".
"Flustered Florida lawmakers walked away from their property-tax negotiations Thursday even as Gov. Charlie Crist stepped up his pressure to broker a deal before the clock runs out on the legislative session next week." "Lawmakers won't budge on taxes". See also "Tax talks break down", "GOP split halts tax compromise", "Crist aims for 'doable' tax-cut plan", "Crist tries to bridge the tax relief divide separating House and Senate", "Legislators hone message on property relief as competing plans clash", "House, Senate stop talks on property taxes" and "Senate suspends property tax talks, but Crist is still optimistic".
On Wednesday night Rubio "called a Spanish-language Miami radio show and portrayed himself as the victim of a 'fix' engineered by local-government lobbyists who had won the governor's ear."
''I am upset with the governor'' said an agitated Rubio, who had learned earlier that Gov. Charlie Crist had proposed a rival plan while dismissing the West Miami legislator's proposal. On the Wednesday night talk show, Rubio said the lobbyists had ''descended on the Capitol'' to oppose significant tax cuts."House speaker rips compromise tax-cut plan".
Were these the off-the-cuff remarks of a true-believing, thin-skinned 35-year-old politician with ambitions of higher office? Or was it all an appeal to sympathetic listeners of Radio Mambi's La Noche y Usted show to help him push a reluctant Senate and eager-to-please governor for deeper cuts?
Rubio's political chess-playing and brinksmanship during the now-stalled negotiations over property taxes have political strategists guessing. Most surprising is that Rubio -- one of the two most powerful legislative leaders -- told listeners he wanted them to back a referendum drive to bypass the Legislature and eliminate most homeowner property taxes in favor of raising sales taxes 2.5 cents. ...
However, if Rubio leads a petition drive, he'll face the opposition of the business lobby, which fears the cooling sales that come with higher sales taxes, especially on big-ticket items like televisions and cars. Many businesses might block signature gatherers from their workplace.
Meanwhile, "Cities quaking over tax cuts": "Telephones normally used during hurricanes and other emergencies were commandeered Thursday by city and county officials for long-distance arm-twisting of state legislators." See also "Volusia leaders beg lawmakers to hold off on tax cuts".
The St Pete Times editors: "Two influential voices are offering some helpful suggestions on property tax relief, and state legislators ought to hear them out. Gov. Charlie Crist and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker are offering specific ideas that could advance the discussion and jump-start the stalled negotiations between the House and Senate." "Crist, Baker outline way ahead on taxes".
That's Our Charlie
"A friend in the petroleum industry helped Gov. Charlie Crist get to the Stop Global Warming rally and appearance with singer and environmental activist Sheryl Crow. ... The incongruity of Crist's plane sponsor to the environmental rally in Gainesville was not lost on activists at the Capitol." "Oil-industry friend gives Crist plane ride".
"Women seeking abortions in their first trimester of pregnancy would be required to have ultrasounds of their fetuses, though they could opt out of viewing them. The proposal amended onto a House bill Thursday also requires that women wait 24 hours after meeting with a doctor before having an abortion." "Bill Mandates Ultrasound".
"Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, added the proposal earlier this week to a bill (HB 957) that would make it easier to get wetlands permits for strip malls and other projects on fewer than 5 acres." "Bill add-on eases wetland restrictions".
"The Florida House of Representatives on Friday unanimously approved a bill that imposes stiffer penalties for attacks or assaults on the homeless that take place because the victim is homeless." "House passes homeless hate crime bill".
"State lawmakers know well how intently Floridians want them to go after most anything connected to insurance. In January, public anger over oppressive property-insurance rates compelled them to eliminate industry loopholes and alter the way underwriters do business." "Keep no-fault". See also "Battle over the no-fault automobile insurance law moves to the Florida House" and "Vote set on extension of no-fault insurance".
The Orlando Sentinel editors: "Rebating sales-tax money generated by sports teams makes good economic sense." "A win-win". Nevertheless, "State senators predicted a quick death for the Florida Marlins baseball stadium bill just moments after it passed out of the House." "New ballpark bill likely to strike out".
SD 3 June 5 Special Election
"Crist chose June 5 for a special primary election and June 26 for the general election in Senate District 3. The 13-county district runs from eastern Tallahassee across north Florida through Baker County, and southeast along the Gulf Coast to part of Marion County." "Special election set for District 3".
No More Lying?
"First, it was no gifts. Now comes no lying. Is it going to be any fun to be a state lawmaker any more? Lying to the Legislature would be a felony, thanks to a proposal approved Thursday by the state Senate that would require lobbyists, legislative staff members and lawmakers themselves to speak under oath." "Legislature trying truth or consequences". See also "Senate: Charge lying lobbyists with perjury" and "Bill calls for truth in hearings" and "Legislators take a stand against lies".
"A bill introduced late Wednesday in the Florida Senate, and supported by House Speaker Marco Rubio, would let Florida’s governor run for president or vice president without being forced to resign from the governor’s office."
A spokeswoman for Rubio denies that the legislation is aimed at making it easier for Gov. Charlie Crist to get out of the state House so Rubio can have a shot at getting in."Rubio: Let The Governor (And Others) Run".
But Rubio might have some reasons to want to do Crist a favor that would also help get Crist out of the way.
He clearly isn’t happy with Crist, at least since about 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Oh Well: "Senators: Crist can't seek presidency, keep his post". See also "Senate frowns on change of state resign-to-run law".
"Attorney General Bill McCollum has joined in the expanded
investigation into fundraising activities at the Office of Insurance
Regulation. CFO Alex Sink on Tuesday asked Gov. Charlie Crist's inspector general
to join the case, and on Wednesday extended that invitation as well to
the attorney general and the agriculture commissioner." "McCollum is In".
The Tampa Trib editors: "Personalities Aside, Byrd Institute Deserves Steady Funding Stream".
"AT&T Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc. don't want to be told they have to sell cable TV and broadband Internet to every area of a city or town." "Senate cable bill includes fine for providers who discriminate".
"The three-member congressional task force examining the disputed Sarasota area congressional race will have its first open meeting next Wednesday." "Will the Florida 13 investigation continue?".
"Rep. David Rivera just tried to amend a highway bill to rename University Avenue in Gainesville after Jeb Bush. But he was only kidding and quickly withdrew the amendment." "Jeb Bush Avenue".
World Class Joke
"The push for 'World-Class Education Standards' is this year's proof that Florida thinks the solution to every school issue is a new slogan, a meddlesome mandate and another standardized test."
The bill is a priority of House Speaker Marco Rubio, a 35-year-old Coral Gables attorney who was inspired by a Hoover Institution report commissioned by former Gov. Jeb Bush. As it turns out, the "Sunshine State Standards," which form the basis of FCAT standardized testing, are apparently not worldly enough."If nothing else, the jargon is world class".
The copy and paste commands on the Department of Education's computer could quickly adapt "Sunshine State" to "World Class," but Rubio wants more. The bill, HB 7151, insists that schools toss everything out and start over - "systematically replace (Sunshine Standards) by adopting World Class Education Standards that prepare Florida's students to effectively engage, communicate, and compete in a global economy." ...
Lest students and teachers get too international in their thinking, though, the bill directs further that social studies exams place "an emphasis on history, government, civics and United States patriotism and national sovereignty." Unpatriotic students, presumably, could be denied diplomas.
The bill, with its call for world-class U.S. patriotism, has made its way to the House floor. But the civics lesson may begin in the Senate, where supporters search for a way to bend the government's rules. A companion bill was defeated in a Senate committee and is now under a cloud because a motion to reconsider did not lead to a new vote. Rubio, unmoved, keeps pressing forward.
If this is the path to world-class education, maybe Florida can wait.
"Shocking Death Rate"
"Rep. Betty Reed and Sen. Arthenia Joyner have shepherded a $1 million initiative to address the shocking death rate among black infants in Florida. The House unanimously approved the bill on Thursday, and now the Senate and Gov. Charlie Crist must act. ... In some parts of Tampa, a black infant has no better chance at surviving their first year than a child born in Jamaica or Serbia." "Action Needed To Save Lives".
From The "Values" Crowd
"In the closing days of the 2007 session, a key senator opposes a decision by the House to pay Crotzer $1.25-million, or $50,000 for each year in prison, without providing a system for similar cases in the future. Sen. Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden, who has worked extensively on wrongful imprisonment issues, said he remains opposed to arbitrarily handling such cases one by one, based on the ability of people and their lawyers to get the Legislature's attention." "Payment for lost years may have to wait".
"Companies that 'abandon morality in favor of profit'"
"Companies that 'abandon morality in favor of profit' should not get any investment dollars from Florida, the state Senate agreed on Thursday. Florida's $140 billion pension fund is the fourth largest in the country. The divestiture would affect about $1 billion worth of investments." "Senate votes to use its financial might to undo social wrongs".
With all due respect, "Companies that 'abandon morality in favor of profit'"? Who might those be?
"It's beginning to look a lot like 2006"
"Up in Tallahassee, it's beginning to look a lot like 2006. With only a week left in the regular session, tough issues like property- tax reform and insurance reform remain tied up in knots. With each passing day, it becomes more likely that any resolution will be a hurried, half-baked affair. Lawmakers shouldn't let this happen -- again." "Lawmakers should get priorities straight".
Ron Reagan's Priorities
"House members disarmed a controversial House insurance 'glitch' bill Thursday, keeping consumer benefits passed just three months ago in special session."
House insurance chief Ron Reagan brought back and passed HB 7077, tabled for nearly a month while he tried to work out a compromise that would pass. "House insurance chief gets tabled bill passed". See also "The House passed a tempered bill that preserves many of the consumer protections that had been included in the special session insurance legislation -- including a limit of 90 days for insurers to pay claims.".
In the end, he abandoned efforts to exempt commercial insurance from new laws requiring claims to be paid within 90 days. However, he won language that limits penalties against slow-to-pay insurers to regulatory action, though insurers must pay property owners interest earnings on their late checks.
"The mess at Broward County's ChildNet could be worse in only one way: It could involve harm to some of the 1,000-plus young charges of the private foster-care agency. But so far, at least, the mounting problems involve job abuses -- charges of theft and fraud and unqualified workers -- but no child abuse. There could be more trouble ahead, though. The FBI served search warrants at ChildNet's offices this month but hasn't revealed its investigation's target." "ChildNet's miscues a disappointment".
"The Florida Senate voted this afternoon to give the parents of Martin Lee Anderson $5 million in a settlement with the state. Lawmakers debated for more than an hour on the bill (SB 2968) before approving it 29-5. The bill was amended to change language some said convicted the former Bay County drill instructors and nurse before their criminal trial." "Senate OKs $5 million settlement for Anderson family".
"Here's a look at the different tuition-hike bills in the House and Senate." "Proposals to increase tuition".
"Hoping to head off more privatization failures, the Senate voted unanimously Thursday to create a new state technology agency with the governor and Cabinet in charge."
Sen. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, said the state spends about $2 billion a year on computer systems and high-tech equipment and services. But he said some big-ticket projects have flopped, costing the state millions and diverting time and money into clean-up work instead of public services."Senate approves plan to keep eye on technology".
''We have a track record of busted projects and broken budgets,'' Lawson said in a statement. ''We have to do better. Damage control only takes time and money away from other priorities. It makes for easy headlines but lousy public policy.''
Dems Coming Back To Life
Bill Cotterell yesterday: "It's too early to call it a trend, but the Florida Democratic Party might be snapping out of its slump." "Democrats are showing signs of life".