The Daytona Beach - News Journal editorial board reminds us that Florida "ranks near the bottom nationwide in per pupil funding, with troubling results -- low high-school graduation rates and deficiencies in helping its lowest-achieving pupils."
Florida spent $6,340 per pupil in 1999. This fiscal year, the state will spend $7,307 -- an increase of less than $1,000 over nine years.Read further here:"State's budget games leave public schools in bind".
Yet Florida is extravagant when producing spin. Just last week, the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission -- required by the state constitution to meet every 20 years -- listened to proposals to reduce education spending by reducing constitutionally mandated class-size restrictions and increasing vouchers to private schools. Neither addresses basic funding disparities.
Consider these examples of a contorted funding system ...
Giuliani Edging Hill in Florida
"Republican Rudolph Giuliani holds a thin lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential race in Florida, according to the latest poll figures released Monday. If the two went head-to-head in a general election, the former New York mayor would defeat the former first lady 46 percent to 44 percent, according to a poll by Quinnipiac University released Monday morning."
"The poll showed the following figures for Democratic candidates: Clinton, 36 percent; Barack Obama, 14 percent and John Edwards, 9 percent. Giuliani leads Republicans with 30 percent, followed by undeclared candidate Fred Thompson, 18 percent. John McCain barely beats Mitt Romney, 10 percent to 9 percent." "Giuliani holds lead in Florida, poll finds". See also "Giuliani maintains lead in Fla" and "Florida Voters Want A New York President".
There Goes the Cuban Vote
"Listen to Spanish-language talk radio [today] at your own risk. Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and John Edwards suggested in tonight's nationally televised debate that they would meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez." "Obama, Edwards would meet with Castro".
Actually, listen to Spanish-language talk radio just for grins; it ought to be a laff riot. A lengthier story here: "Obama, Edwards say they would meet with Castro, Chávez".
Cry Me a River
"The president of Panhandle utility Gulf Power is criticizing one of the keynote speakers at Gov. Charlie Crist's climate-change summit in Miami this month for blasting her parent company." Robert Kennedy Jr.,
the son of the slain U.S. senator, devoted a portion of his 50-minute keynote speech to attacking the coal industry, calling Atlanta-based Southern Company the "worst of the worst of the worst.""Gulf Power criticizes speaker for remarks".
He also brought up three federal environmental employees involved in weakening mercury standards for coal-burning power plants who had left the EPA to work for lobbying firms, including one hired by Southern Co.
Naming Southern specifically, he said the company, which burns coal, had committed "an act of theft" by raising the levels of mercury in lakes that made fish in New York unsafe to eat.
"When the Southern Co. puts mercury in the air in the Ohio Valley and it lands in New York State and poisons the fish and poisons our children's brains," Kennedy said, "today the Southern Company owns the fish in New York State. They've privatized a public resource."
"Conservative group says Crist pandering to 'radicals'". The details: "Tell Governor Crist To Stop Pandering to Radical Environmentalists!" ("'If you make a deal with the devil you are the junior partner' ... Under pressure from Al Gore and his liberal buddies in Hollywood, Governor Crist has issued three executive orders ...") (emphasis original).
"Despite 35 dozen home insurers asking for rate increases, Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty says he is optimistic the 'vast majority' of companies will 'do the right thing.'"
Pointing to nearly three dozen rate hike requests from home insurers, Florida's top insurance regulator said he was ''resolved'' to provide policyholders with the rate cuts intended by a new law passed during January's special legislative session."McCarty vows to get rate cuts".
''I remain optimistic that the vast majority of companies will do the right thing by their policyholders,'' said Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty in a letter sent to the editorial boards of major newspapers around the state Monday afternoon. ...
Regulators and lawmakers had expected significant rate reductions -- averaging 24 percent -- from insurers. The bill expanded the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund so that it could provide cheaper back-up insurance to insurers, which could then pass the savings onto policyholders.
But rather than pass on the savings to consumers, the insurers are using the savings to buy additional back-up insurance -- or reinsurance -- in the private market or from their own subsidiaries, The Miami Herald reported Saturday.
"A judge hearing arguments on the constitutionality of Florida's lethal injection procedures has ruled that a Death Row inmate cannot be executed unless the Department of Corrections makes changes to its protocol and procedures. The ruling came in an unusual hearing Sunday before Circuit Judge Carven D. Angel in Ocala in the case involving Ian Deco Lightbourne, condemned for the 1981 slaying of Nancy O'Farrell. The ruling could potentially impact other executions." "Judge: Injections flawed". See also "Judge suspends execution" and "Judge imposes stay on lethal injections".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Create a better system for paying state's victims".
Why Kids Don't Vote
"There is a list of 'maybes' we could swat down as flimsy excuses explaining the decreased voter turnout among young people in Florida." "Young voters should realize, it's our world, too".
Pesky Union Thugs
Ever wonder where the Miami Herald editorial board stands on unions? Here's a reminder:
Recently, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders in the House paid lip service to Colombia as ''a crucial ally in a region that deserves our active engagement.'' Then, in a classic example of speaking out of both sides of their mouths, they said they could not support a free-trade agreement with Colombia."Congress ignores a friend in need".
They cited the continued level of violence, ''impunity'' and the role of right-wing paramilitaries in Colombia. Actually, this is just a pretext for rank protectionism. Under the prodding of the AFL-CIO, a powerful Democratic Party constituency that has never liked free-trade deals, Colombia has been pilloried for the serial murder of local union leaders.
"Weekend rains ease drought in South Florida, but only a bit". See also "Seawater could help solve S. Florida water woes, but at what price?" and "Think of it as a wet drought".
"National survey: Education is top election issue for Latinos". See also "Herald: Education top issue for Hispanic voters".
Jennings Gets a Pass
"Democrats are making it clear that they will not let a potential primary scuffle get in their way of backing Christine Jennings this time around. When the Sarasota Democrat announced last week that she was running again for Congress, the crowd included Sarasota County Democratic Party chairwoman Rita Ferrandino. Ferrandino said Jennings is “the top of our ticket” and is like an incumbent for Democrats." "No primary battle?".
"Beta Upsilon Chi, an all-male Christian fraternity, has been trying unsuccessfully to gain recognition on campus since May, according to a lawsuit filed by the group earlier this month. But UF officials say the fraternity hasn't even fully completed the application process, nor has it even been rejected." "UF letter: Christian frat's rights not violated".
And Then There's Rush Limbaugh
The St. Pete Times editorial board: "If possession of 58 doctor-prescribed Vicodin pain pills constitutes drug trafficking, then Florida might as well begin building high-rise prisons. ... Two doctors testified at the trial that they had prescribed the pills for pain from gout and an automobile accident, and no one claimed he was selling the pills. But [State Atttorney] Ober's attorneys and Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ronald Ficarrotta stopped jurors from being told that the law specifically exempts those who have legally prescribed pills. ... [And the defendant received] a 25-year mandatory sentence."The nonsensical trial over 58 Vicodin pills".
Why the Wait?
"After nearly eight months in office, Gov. Charlie Crist has still not appointed a new chairman to the Florida Elections Commission, the panel responsible for enforcing election laws. The panel, which had a lot of its powers stripped away this past session by state lawmakers, meets again in August. Former Rep. Chance Irvine kept on as chairman for two meetings this year, but finally called it quits earlier this summer." "Nearly eight months and still waiting for Crist".
"Come Jan. 29, amid a blizzard of campaign ads about the presidential primary election, what will voters make of the ballot question to replace the Save Our Homes property tax cap with a much larger homestead exemption? ... Consider the variables:"
- Presidential primary elections in the past two decades have had dismal turnout, averaging about 30 percent, but those primaries took place in March, after the eventual nominee had sewn up the prize. This time, Florida’s early primary probably will make the state a focus of candidates from both parties."Who will vote for the new tax plan? Who knows?".
- Primary voters are typically homesteaded homeowners, the one group benefiting from Save Our Homes and therefore most likely to be leery of phasing it out. But the promise that existing homeowners will be able to keep that benefit until they move could keep them from voting against it.
- Conversely, recent and would-be home buyers lured by the prospect of a new tax break potentially worth thousands of dollars could turn out to the polls in droves - thereby skewing traditional analyses of the likely primary voter.
"Environmentalists, buoyed by an enthusiastic ally in the Governor’s Mansion, issue a report today that claims rising temperatures in 2006 were caused by human-related climate change." "Environmentalists claim rising temperatures part of climate change".
Stick a Fork in Him ...
The Buzz notes that "Rep. Bob Allen of Merritt Island has vowed to fight a misdemeanor charge of soliciting a male police officer for prostitution, and he's still a candidate for a state Senate seat. But one key verdict is already in and it's from the editorial page editor of his hometown paper, Florida Today."
It's the rerun of a bad movie:There's much more here: "Politics of self destruction".
A politician gets caught in a sexual fandango, claims it's a misunderstanding, proclaims his innocence and, as a kicker, says he'll still seek higher office.
It's the sad spectacle of state Rep. Bob Allen, now playing at a theater near you.
I'm not going to recite the details of what Allen supposedly did or try to psychoanalyze what would put a successful elected official in a public restroom allegedly seeking sexual favors. I'll leave that to Dr. Phil.
But I will say this:
The court of public opinion has already rendered its verdict in the case of the Merritt Island Republican, and if Allen hasn't noticed, they've found him guilty.
His career is over, done, kaput, and the sooner he understands that and walks away, the better.
A Bit Much
"Does he look like a terrorist?".