"Facing one of the biggest political tests since he came to office in January, Gov. Charlie Crist signs the state’s $72 billion budget today."
Crist has line-item veto power and gets to decide the fate of the hundreds of spending items tucked into the 428-page document that directs all state spending from July 1 through June 30, 2008."Crist to sign budget today".
Those Silly GOPers
"Stung by a "True Confessions" attack ad linking state Rep. Charlie Dean to Democrats, a political handler in his state Senate campaign filed a complaint Wednesday with the Florida Elections Commission."
"I SUED the Republican Party!" says the headline on the supermarket tabloid-style mass mailing, featuring an unflattering photo of Dean pointing at the side of his head. The piece also promises, "The secret Bill Clinton & Charlie Dean don't want you to know!""State Rep. Dean files complaint after attack ad". More: "Here come the 527s and their wacky ads".
The mass mailing was sent by Floridians for Traditional Values, an independent "electioneering communication organization" not run by any candidates in the special election to replace former Sen. Nancy Argenziano, R-Dunnellon. Argenziano, now a member of the Public Service Commission, is supporting Dean in the race, which includes eastern parts of Leon County. ...
Dean, who was Citrus County sheriff for 15 years, is now a Republican House member. But as a Democrat, he supported Gov. Lawton Chiles' re-election against GOP nominee Jeb Bush in 1994 and Clinton's re-election in 1996, the Traditional Values flier says.
It also notes that Dean was a Democratic State Committeeman before he was sheriff and that he once sued the state and national GOP.
Pick Up the Pace
"The current pace of property tax discussions could prevent lawmakers from reaching their goals for the approaching special session, the state House Democratic leader said in a letter sent Wednesday to his Republican counterparts." "Democratic leader urges GOP to move faster on property tax".
The GOPer Immigration Imbroglio
"As Mitt Romney campaigns in Florida today, he is likely to face questions about the new immigration proposal in Congress."
Since the proposal's unveiling last week, immigration has become a tightrope for presidential candidates, eager to appear tough on national security without alienating a rapidly growing Hispanic electorate."Romney's immigration stance at odds with state GOP leaders".
Romney, who will visit Jacksonville and Lakeland today, has campaigned more aggressively in Hispanic-rich Florida than any of his GOP rivals. But his immigration stance is at odds with some of the state's most prominent Republicans, including Sen. Mel Martinez, who helped craft the legislation, and Gov. Charlie Crist, who supports allowing illegal immigrants to earn citizenship.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush -- whom Romney has name-dropped as a potential running mate -- has told friends he is ''disappointed'' with Romney's position. ...
Romney supporters insist the former Massachusetts governor's views come from a policy perspective, not a political one.
''The governor receives high praise for his position on immigration in Florida and throughout the country because of his strong support of legal immigration, not amnesty,'' said spokeswoman Gail Gitcho.
Romney advisor Al Cárdenas, a Cuban-American lawyer and former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, said: ``The criticism he has received has been over the top and unfair. . . . I am confident that he will [put] forward an immigration proposal that Floridians and Hispanics alike will find fair.''
The Hill: "Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-Fla.), the freshman member who barely beat the name 'Mark Foley' in the most bizarre race of the last election, has had a shaky transition to life in Congress. And Democratic leaders have taken note." "‘Very candidly, this isn’t the greatest job I’ve had’" (via Naked Politics).
"President Bush's choice for consumer czar withdrew his name from consideration - two days after meeting with Sen. Bill Nelson, who had opposed the appointment." "Nelson claims victory".
The Orlando Sentinel trumpets this headline today: "FCAT scores rise across the state". Deep in the article we read that "As in years past, younger students did better than high-schoolers. Seventy percent of the elementary students could read as they should, but, like last year, 48 percent of the state's 10th-graders failed FCAT reading. ... State officials also said they were concerned to see the scores of black and Hispanic students fell slightly this year in reading, widening the performance gap with their white classmates. Minority students had posted improvements in previous years."
There's much more: "FCAT fiasco: Scores wrong", "State to rescore last year's FCAT exams for third grade, saying they were flawed", "Last year's problem overshadows rising 2007 FCAT scores", "In 2006, a set of tests was scored incorrectly, drawing critics' scorn" and "So can 3rd-graders read or not?"
"The family of a Panama City teen who died after being roughed up by juvenile boot camp guards last year will receive $5 million under a bill signed Wednesday by Gov. Charlie Crist." "Crist signs $5 million claims bill for Panama City family". See also "Gov. Crist signs Anderson bill", "Governor signs bill giving family full $5 million in boot camp death" and "Crist Signs $5 Mil Payment for Anderson Family".
The Primary Thing
"Howard Dean isn't getting much help from Florida's top elected Democrats as he tries to convince the state to back off plans to hold one of the country's earliest presidential primaries. Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink on Wednesday said she opposes a plan to make Florida's Jan. 29 Democratic primary nonbinding and officially meaningless. Sen. Bill Nelson also opposes that idea." "Democratic primary: binding or not?".
One Man's Turkey ...
"Shoot Only Turkeys, Gov. Crist". See also "Crist the turkey hunter".
"The Clock is Ticking"
"There's no apparent sign of consensus developing on what to do with mandatory no-fault insurance, needed auto coverage that is plagued with fraud. The Florida Senate wants to keep it, with modifications. The Florida House wants something new. Regardless, the clock is ticking." "Auto Insurance".
The Tampa Tribune editors think "" "Crist Should Sign Tuition Hike To Save People Time And Money". Their point is that
By raising tuition on the front end, students could save thousands of dollars now spent waiting for needed, chocked-full classes to open.They close with one of the very few rankings Florida should be proud to have: "Besides, depending on who's counting, Florida charges the lowest or second lowest tuition in the country.".
Imagine the money Florida families could save if inefficiencies were removed so that their children could graduate in four years, instead of the five or six years it increasingly takes. It's not just tuition costs, either. Housing and living expenses figure in, too.
In the long run, the savings for families could well exceed the extra $221 that UF and FSU want to charge students each semester to add more academic advisers and increase the number of undergraduate class offerings. USF hopes to increase tuition by $170 per semester.
On a daily basis, the increase represents what a student might spend on a cup of Starbucks coffee. Is a better education worth a daily cup of coffee?
Veto This Thing
Howard Troxler brings to our attention "The little House bill that could (be vetoed)".
Shut Up And Count
"At a meeting of Florida's elections chiefs, many were critical of a new state law mandating a change from touch-screen voting machines to optical-scan machines."
Some supervisors said ending the use of touch-screen systems was a step backward. Others said they are worried about making major changes while state lawmakers are preparing to cut local property taxes, which could lead to budget cuts in county election departments. Indian River County Supervisor of Elections Kay Clem called the move a "a huge waste of money.''"Voting change irks supervisors". See also "Voting officials feeling pressure" and "New elections chief sees holes in reform package".
''To go back to a paper ballot system is insane,'' said Clem, a Republican. "At a time when people need property tax relief and insurance relief, to waste money like this goes against my fiscal conservatism.''
"Property tax anger sparks petition drive".
"The Smell Test"
"Crist has a chance to make an appointment that will signal a more cooperative approach to school accountability, and he can thank lawmakers."
The Legislature, not known as a bloodhound when it comes to detecting the scent of political conflict, did the governor a favor this spring by passing on the appointment of Akshay Desai to the state Board of Education. ..."Education post needs new face".
Desai's appointment failed even the Legislature's weak smell test, which gives Crist the chance to find a replacement. He already has used his appointments to various state agencies and boards to put his own stamp on government, including his bipartisan approach and strong advocacy for consumer and environmental issues.
With the education board, Crist has not done nearly so well. The seven-member board sets public school standards, oversees failing schools and charter schools, and chooses the education commissioner. Crist has said he would like to see a less combative approach, but his first selection was to reappoint T. Willard Fair, who recently told a public audience that he doesn't "trust" elected school boards. His second selection, Desai, was as notable for his Republican fundraising prowess as for his educational credentials.
Is Anyone Surprised?
"Florida's colleges are woefully understaffed in police and mental health counselors, according to a draft report on safety ordered by Gov. Charlie Crist in response to last month's massacre at Virginia Tech University." "Fla. colleges fall behind on safety".