Charlie "Striking Back at Legislators"
"If the hundreds of millions in pet projects state lawmakers tucked into the budget were a test of how far they could push the new governor, the response was sharp Thursday:"
Not far."Crist chops millions, halts hike in tuition". See also "Selective striking of tuition increase sparks legal debate", "Tuition veto worries universities", "Gov.'s budget emphasizes 'living within our means'", "Crist's budget ax falls on tuition hike", "Crist swings hefty veto ax", "Crist vetoes $460M in projects from budget", "Crist slashes state budget", "Crist axes $459-million from budget", "Crist signs penny-pinching $71.5B, sets veto record" and "Crist slashes $459.2M from state budget".
Gov. Charlie Crist, striking back at legislators who refused to pay for many of his top priorities, axed a record $459 million from the state budget, which takes effect July 1.
Most significantly, he rejected a 5 percent tuition increase at state universities and community colleges, provoking the state's top education official to threaten a challenge.
Late last night,
Citing lack of affordable housing for the state's workers, Crist vetoed a bill that would have created steeper penalties for renters who break their leases. ..."Governor sides with renters, not legislators". Naked Politics reports that
-SB 1116 revising Medicaid policy. He expressed alarm at several provisions, including one requiring doctors to use name brand drugs instead of generics for transplant patients. That would increase Medicaid costs by $500, 000 in the first year, he wrote. "Even more disturbing, " he wrote, "is the fact that many of these provider-driven provisions were not discussed in an open forum, but were, instead, added to the bill at the last minute without proper public hearing."
- SB 920, which created a new license for hair technicians, estheticians, nail technicians and cosmetologists.
- SB 1104, which increased boat registration fees by $2 to help pay for removal of derelict boats. Crist said the tax would be unfair to responsible boaters.
The bill dealing with Medicaid HMOs, SB 1116, was one of the so-called conforming bills that accompanied the $71.5 billion budget that Crist signed into law [yesterday]. But this bill was changed behind closed doors in the waning hours of the session to give Medicaid HMOs a $5 million rate increase starting in January. Crist also faulted the bill for ending a current requirement that Medicaid health plans provide at least 80 percent of money they receive for mental health care on direct services to patients."Crist vetoes HMO increase bill and landlords bill" (with links to the veto messages).
More: "Big Bend projects feel pinch of budget slashing" and "Gov. Crist trims millions for South Florida from state budget". All of it, courtesy of the St Pete Times: "Download an Excel spreadsheet listing Crist's vetoes here."
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board observes that "the governor's credentials as a fiscal conservative, regardless of his amiable working relationship with lawmakers and nice-guy image, were reaffirmed by his strike of the veto pen." "Uncle Veto".
Bill March notes that even though "Crist has been studiously neutral in the Republican presidential primary, ... some comments he made in Tampa Thursday suggested that maybe late at night, behind closed doors, the governor may be reading John McCain’s talking points." See what he means here: "Crist Uses McCain Language On Budget".
GOPers Go After Moderates
"Rep. Tim Mahoney is one of 15 moderate Democratic freshmen being targeted by GOP ads and, in some cases, telephone calls. Mahoney is targeted for both. The ads and calls claim that the Democrats have lost touch with their more conservative districts and are tied to 'their liberal speaker, Nancy Pelosi.' The ads targeting Mahoney are available on a website sponsored by the National Republican Congressional Committee." "Mahoney Target of GOP Ads, Calls".
"A Miami-based citizens' group with some influential backers is preparing to launch a statewide petition drive for a constitutional amendment to lower property taxes." "Group pushes for tax-cut vote".
Out In The Fields
"The largest group of Florida tomato growers on Thursday rejected a recent deal between McDonald's Corp. and an advocacy group that would pay field workers more for the fruit." They claim that paying a decent wage
could leave them open to racketeering and antitrust lawsuits."Tomato growers reject McDonald's deal to pay farmworkers more".
And Then There's That Minimum Wage Thing To Boot ...
"A sweeping Senate immigration bill is hitting resistance from some South Florida employers who say the proposal could create more problems than it solves." "Some South Florida employers find fault with immigration plan".
"Property tax reform for this year can't work unless legislative leaders and Gov. Crist enter the June 12 special session with a fair amount of agreement on what they want to do."
Monday's feeble gathering reveals a lack of urgency that could result in a rushed and flawed approach on a complex and technical subject that affects every Floridian."For tax reform in 2007, bring on the urgency". See also "Gelber wants prop tax results; Rubio says they're coming".
House and Senate tax negotiators spent the day viewing a lengthy presentation that told them what they surely already know: Homeowners protected by the Save Our Homes tax cap are paying disproportionately less than business owners, landlords, snowbirds and newcomers. As legislators fritter away valuable time, local governments must plan next year's budgets on little more than hype and anxiety.
Negotiators have scheduled just one more meeting, on June 4, before the special session. As the problems from Save Our Homes reveal, the consequences of even a single change in the tax code can be far-reaching.
By putting off a decision on the framework for a deal, negotiators limit scrutiny that could help them develop a more cohesive, effectivebill.
"Critical Equipment Shortages"
"Facing critical equipment shortages as hurricane season approaches, the head of the Florida National Guard [Maj. Gen. Doug Burnett, a gubernatorial appointment who answers to Crist] has threatened to withhold some gear demanded by the U.S. Army, an internal guard document shows." "Will the Guard be ready?".
And He's Not A Crook Either
"Romney says he is not intolerant".
"A Republican presidential candidates debate that was to have been held in Tampa later this summer and broadcast over a conservative religious radio network has been cancelled after John McCain and Rudy Giuliani refused to participate." "Tampa Presidential Debate Cancelled".
Kucinich in Tampa
"Dennis Kucinich, accompanied by his wife, Elizabeth, will make his first campaign stops of the 2008 season in the Tampa Bay area Saturday, supporters have announced."
Kucinich will hold a $25 a person fundraiser at Mis En Place restaurant across Kennedy Boulevard from the University of Tampa at 1 p.m., then hold a rally at the Courtside Grille oin Fountain Parkway in Feather Sound, then come back to Tampa for a dinner with the League of United Latin American Citizens Saturday evening. "Kucinich Campaign Rolls Through Tampa Bay".
"Kottcamp to launch "shuttle experience"".
"House Democrats are asking the governor to include extending Florida's no-fault auto insurance law in the special session next month." "Extension sought for PIP insurance".
"Parents hate it. Students dread it. Teachers live and die by it. Like it or not, high-stakes testing will remain a way of life in Florida".
On Thursday, Gov. Charlie Crist said he still wants to learn more about the mistake that led to inflated scores on last year's reading exam before making any changes to the state's extensive testing program -- and its many consequences."Despite mistakes, FCAT isn't going away". See also "Senate panel to probe 'botched' 2006 FCAT".
Even the pro-FCAT Tampa Trib editors see a problem:
The public deserves answers from the state Department of Education and the testing service - Harcourt Assessment - that secured the $39 million contract to write FCAT questions."FCAT Flunks The Credibility Test, And Public Deserves Answers".
Despite the clamor for school accountability, the all-important testing services are escaping serious oversight by the agencies that employ them. Harcourt, which is in the last year of its four-year contract, now must prove to the public that it can handle the assignment at an A-grade level.
This is rich: even the "testing experts" don't get it:
Florida's former education commissioner said he was so concerned about last year's record spike in FCAT scores that he ordered three groups, including an outside group of testing experts, to "triple check" the numbers."FCAT blunder overlooked". Howard Troxler has some fun with it: "What Does That 'F' In FCAT Stand For, Again?"
After further review, John Winn says, he was told that no problems were found.
"Did they do as diligent job as maybe they've done this year, looking back?" Winn told the St. Petersburg Times on Thursday. "I guess, obviously not." ...
Winn's comments came a day after his replacement acknowledged that last year's scores on the third-grade Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test were bungled, prompting an outcry from teachers and lawmakers and further eroding public confidence in the FCAT-heavy school system that Winn helped build under former Gov. Jeb Bush.
On a related note, ""Charters lag behind district FCAT average".
Watch Your Mouth
"Former state Rep. Ralph Arza [a Hialeah Republican] pleaded guilty Thursday to witness tampering charges months after leaving an obscenity-laced phone message with a colleague. He was sentenced to 18 months' probation and will not be eligible to seek public office again until 2010." "Ex-Rep. Arza pleads guilty to witness tampering". See also "Disgraced Ex-Rep. Pleads Guilty".
"Former Broward teen Minouche Noel finally received $8.5 million from the state after being paralyzed by state-contracted doctors as an infant." "$8.5 million settlement arrives after 19 years".