"The centrist Crist clearly has been steering state Republicans on a new course, after eight years of dogma under Gov. Jeb Bush."
But rumbling within the GOP hints at some level of discomfort stemming from Crist's moderate stance on social issues, and even a wariness on such pocketbook items as the enhanced role Florida taxpayers now play in propping up the insurance industry after January's special session."Crist's centrist stance may make waves in state GOP". See also yesterday's St Pete Times: "McCollum takes on Crist at his own risk". See also "GOP grumbles over Crist" and "A strong appeal" ("Republicans back him. Democrats back him. But can Gov. Crist's populism help solve Florida's biggest crises?")
McCollum, though, for one day last week turned this rumbling into a roar.
Along these same lines, The "Prince of Darkness", Robert Novak had this to say in his column yesterday:
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, the only new Republican governor elected by a major state in 2006, is a major disappointment to party leaders in the state.Charlie responds to Novak: "Republican enough to be vice president?".
"Charlie has succeeded in just three months in getting rid of just about everything Jeb Bush [his two-term predecessor as governor] accomplished," a key Florida Republican told this column. He contended Crist has abandoned Bush's conservative reforms, particularly in education.
Perhaps his kind of talk will embolden the slumbering RPOF wingnuts and turn the internal "rumbling into a roar".
Busting Wingnut Myths
The wingnuts and "those who live in 1962 or 1862 won't like these developments. But they not only are inevitable; they are necessary":
A new poll by Florida International University found that growing numbers of Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County reject our isolation of the island nation and its people. The U.S. still doesn't have an ambassador in Cuba, because the exiles who fled Castro were professionals, not the working class. They reconstituted themselves in Miami, made money, organized politically and demanded that every presidential candidate take only one position on Cuba: theirs, which was no dialogue. ...There's more:
Outside of South Florida, Cuba isn't a big foreign-policy issue. But with Florida such a swing state in presidential politics, hard-line exiles for years have persuaded candidates not to deviate from the hard-line view. Now, though, people want other opinions. And isn't that also what we want in Cuba? ...
And if we are being honest in Florida, we tell children that Fidel Castro is a dictator but that he gained power because of the dictator who preceded him. As for the idea that continuing our policy will bring helpful change in Cuba, well, that's the biggest myth of all.
Three days after the poll came out, The Washington Post reported on problems at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Va., the capital of the Confederacy. Attendance is down by 50 percent. The museum must move, sell its land to raise money and might change its name. An outside report noted that the museum still "conjures up in the public mind images of slavery, racism, and intolerance. ... [It] carries enormous, intransigent and negative intellectual and emotional baggage." ..."These myths of history are history".
Few myths have persisted more than the notion that the Confederacy fought the Civil War to preserve states' rights, not slavery. In some small-town Southern courthouse squares and in some minds, the myth lingers like a faint, cheap perfume of history. But in the modern American marketplace, it's fading.
"With four weeks left in their annual session, Florida lawmakers appear far from resolving the biggest issue of the year: lowering property taxes." "Halfway home, some heavy lifting remains".
"Clemency Vote is Just a Start"
The Tallahassee Democrat editors remind us that "it's far too soon to declare Florida a model where justice rolls down like waters, as the Hebrew prophet Amos declared thousands of years ago. Considerable work remains to be done, and lawmakers so far this session have shown little interest in doing the hard work necessary for that mighty stream to flow." "Getting there".
We're Number One
The Palm Beach Post notes today that "the Innocence Project announced last week that it soon will exonerate its 200th inmate nationwide, based on DNA evidence. Florida leads the nation in Death Row exonerations, with 22."
"Legislative chambers to submit state budget proposals" - "The Florida House and Senate are scheduled to approve separate versions of a $70 billion-plus state budget when they return from the Passover/Easter break. The chambers then will begin negotiations to reach a compromise spending blueprint for the budget year that will begin July 1. Here are some highlights of the two bills".
"The first order of business for the new director of the National Hurricane Center was to warn Americans in general and Floridians in particular about how far behind the government is in paying for the equipment needed to protect them from killer storms."
The Bush administration's haphazard sense of priority is a large part of the problem. President Bush's bold talk about sending astronauts to Mars came without the money to get there and left NASA lost in space. NASA hasn't committed to replacing the satellite that's on life support. If the satellite fails, the accuracy of a three-day forecast - the hurricane center's main piece of information - could drop as much as 16 percent. This might be regarded in Washington as a statistical triviality, but for Floridians and millions of other coastal residents it would pose significant problems with regard to preparation, the posting of watches and warnings and evacuations."New/old storm warning".
The Pentagon's depletion of National Guard units because of the Iraq War already has compromised the nation's level of preparedness. Equipment and personnel that should be on hand for storm response are deployed overseas. This is hardly the timeto diminish the hurricane center's capacity to deliver timely and accurate warnings.
"Quayle in Cowboy Boots"
Vic Gold, a self-described Goldwater conservative, speaks up on Dubya: "'the weakest, most out of touch president in modern times. Think Dan Quayle in cowboy boots.'" "Conservatives bailing out on 'Quayle in cowboy boots'".
One Size Does Not Fit All
"The biggest payout to Floridians could come at the highest cost: rationed government services, greater disparity between residents and visitors, or higher taxes on tourists and shoppers. Cities and counties across Florida have warned they could be forced to curtail vital services with $6 billion or more trimmed from their budgets." "Democrat: Lawmakers weigh cost of tax cuts". See also "Florida not only state grappling with tax relief".
"The rise in Florida real estate values has varied across the landscape. And for lawmakers, that makes tax-cutting a challenge." "Tax cut plan is not the best fit for all". See also "Housing slump saps Florida tax haul".
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune editors remind us that "there is a responsible alternative to maintaining the status quo: Let the voter-approved Taxation and Budget Reform Commission do its work." "A better path to tax reform".
The Jax perspective: "Services at Risk in Jacksonville".
"Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama plans a return to Orlando next Sunday for a fundraiser at the downtown lakeside home of supporters Ann and Bill Wallace." "Obama coming back" (scroll down).
"Big Bend legislators have been trying for years to raise pension payments for hospital attendants to the same 3 percent annual credit that correctional officers receive in prisons. But even that is caught up in the budgeting process as the 2007 legislative session enters its hectic second half." "Workers decry conditions at Florida State Hospital".
Mike Thomas: "We currently keep the sea out by dredging up sand and silt from the ocean bottom and pumping it on the shoreline. But just like the real beaches before them, the fake ones also wash away. So more sand is needed. But beach-quality sand is a finite resource. South Florida has used up most of its offshore deposits, actually sparking a sand war last year." "Sand is the new water in battle over resources".
"Little has Changed"
"The immediate reality of Florida's insurance reform: little has changed."
Lawmakers and regulators say it will take more than a year for the cuts promised in January's special session of the Legislature to work their way to homeowners, and years more for the Florida insurance market to rebound."Insurance-reform frustrations growing".
For the short term, insurers like Nationwide and Allstate continue programs to discard the riskiest business, resulting in continued dramatic rate hikes for those customers as they are passed from company to company.
Allstate, having shed a third of its Florida customers since the 2004 hurricanes, resumed non-renewing another 106,000 customers. Nationwide is in the process of shedding 38,000 homeowners.
"You ask, Crist answers".
Another Jebacy Going Down?
"Fortunately, more of the Jeb Bush legacy soon may disappear." "Rehire Death Row lawyers".
From The "Values" Crowd
"Struggling to fix a huge financial problem, Florida lawmakers could scale back state services for people who have mental retardation or other developmental disabilities."
Lawmakers are faced with a projected $153 million budget deficit next year in a key state program that includes people with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and autism."Funds dwindling for those with developmental disabilities".
That could force them to limit services, while more than 13,000 people stay on a waiting list to get state help and another 6,000 seek increased assistance. In Volusia and Flagler counties, 384 people are on the waiting list.
"We're going to have to make some limitations," said Rep. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, chairman of the House Healthcare Council. "We're going to have to make some cuts."
"As the historically black university prepares for a new leader, unresolved issues and infighting mean big trouble." "FAMU's new leader faces storm clouds". See also "Leader turned college around" and "Ammons not on the job yet, but he's already lobbying for support".
Did you know that "Broward has 89 special districts that can tax you, too"?
"'America's Mayor' snubbed St. Petersburg last week. Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani had a host of local elected officials at his side at St. Petersburg High Wednesday, but not the local Republican mayor. The Giuliani campaign even asked U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, to speak, and she's a Mitt Romney supporter." "'America's Mayor' skips a local one".
"A Replay of Some of the Ex-governor's Worst" Ideas
"Like Jeb Bush's A+ Plan, House Speaker Marco Rubio's purported "world class education system" for Florida's public schools sounds like a description anyone would favor. But like Mr. Bush's A+ Plan, the details do not live up to the name."
In fact, the world-class education system House Republicans are promoting is primarily a replay of some of the ex-governor's worst education policy proposals. Last week, the House School and Learning Council approved PCB SLC 07-02, which would put more emphasis on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and could move the state closer to expanding voucher programs and abandoning voter-approved class-size limits. That was the goal of the Hoover Institution's review of Florida's public schools last year, and the conservative think tank - hired by former Gov. Bush, because it thinks what he thought - is among those who would advise the state Board of Education on how to "prepare Florida's students to compete globally with students around the world.""Raising FCAT stakes would be a bad bet".
"A Sporting Proposition"
Carl Hiassen: "US. immigration policy is a sporting proposition. Some boat people get locked up. Some boat people get to play ball."
Jean-Ferdinand Monestime, who landed on Hallandale Beach on March 28, is in government custody awaiting an asylum hearing that will likely result in his deportation."Haiti migrants: If only they had a golden arm".
Francisely Bueno, who landed on Big Pine Key in August 2004, is pitching for the Atlanta Braves' AA farm team in Pearl, Miss. The lefty is here to stay.
Monestime arrived on a dilapidated sailboat after weeks at sea with 100 other weary and hungry Haitians, including 13 children and teenagers. Bueno arrived from Cuba on a speedboat with four other ballplayers, 13 other migrants and a smuggler at the helm. ...
In order to stay, Monestime must prove to a judge that he faces political persecution if he returns to Haiti. Bueno didn't spend a day behind bars, and he didn't have to prove anything.
That's because the United States awards political asylum to almost all Cubans who reach the shores of Florida. Those who are intercepted at sea are usually returned to the island.
A House GOPer "Farce"
"A House Republican effort to loosen the reins on growth in Florida is so detached from the realities of surging development as to be fairly characterized as a farce." "The let's-make-developers-happy bill".
"Here and there yet somehow nowhere" See also "The invisible RNC chairman".
That's why he's been called "Bush's Mr. Cellophane".
"Broward Circuit Court Judge Robert Rosenberg's assignment to head the recount of the county's ballots in the 2000 presidential election brought unwelcome fame, except when the Smithsonian came calling." "Hanging-chad judge moved on".
The Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial board:
Jeb Bush became governor in 1999, he said he wanted to show other states how to effectively privatize government services. Now that Bush is out of office, other states are studying Florida's ongoing experiments with privatization. And often, they're trying to understand what went wrong. Florida officials are asking the same questions."At the State Level".
Bush set out to privatize state services at any cost. As a result Florida is spending more for less in many areas. ...
Many of the more direct outsourcing contracts seemed tailored to benefit specific vendors, often those with close ties to Bush or heavy GOP donors.
With all due respect to Alex Sink - who writes that "Problem not privatization but lack of proper oversight" - privatization very well may be the problem. Why do Democrats uncritically accept the Reagan era misconception that the private sector (driven solely by the profit motive) is somehow superior to the public sector in the delivery of core governmental services?
And why is the political corruption angle generally overlooked. Paul Krugman wrote that
Jeb Bush has already blazed the trail. Florida's governor has been an aggressive privatizer, and as The Miami Herald put it after a careful study of state records, "his bold experiment has been a success — at least for him and the Republican Party, records show. The policy has spawned a network of contractors who have given him, other Republican politicians and the Florida G.O.P. millions of dollars in campaign donations.""Victors and Spoils"
What's interesting about this network of contractors isn't just the way that big contributions are linked to big contracts; it's the end of the traditional practice in which businesses hedge their bets by giving to both parties. The big winners in Mr. Bush's Florida are companies that give little or nothing to Democrats. Strange, isn't it? It's as if firms seeking business with the state of Florida are subject to a loyalty test.
So am I saying that we are going back to the days of Boss Tweed and Mark Hanna? Gosh, no — those guys were pikers. One-party control of today's government offers opportunities to reward friends and punish enemies that the old machine politicians never dreamed of.
As an aside, did you know, as Sink relates in her article, that "almost 40 percent of the state's annual $70 billion budget is spent on contracted goods and services"?
"Crist has signaled a fresh desire to strike a revenue-sharing compact with the Seminoles, who want to expand gaming. Those talks broke down under his predecessor." "Crist open to deal with tribe". See also "Seminoles renovate casino, plan major development".