The St. Petersburg Times editorial board:
If Gov. Charlie Crist honestly views the state's $1.5-billion shortfall as merely "an opportunity to continue to tighten our belt," he is living in a budgetary bubble."Getting ready for budget pain".
If You Can't Win It, Steal It
A GOPer thing: Jason Paul Rojas, the "head of the legislative Hispanic caucus could lose his job over his involvement with the 2004 theft of one of FSU's national title trophies. Incidentally, he's a Gator. ... Turns out, a Florida Bar complaint was still hanging over the 30-year-old's head. And starting this weekend, he's been suspended from practicing law for 60 days for stashing the Waterford crystal trophy at his Tallahassee home in 2004 and 2005." "FSU trophy scandal dogs Gator".
Abolish "A to F grades for schools"?
The Palm Beach Post editors put it bluntly:"
Florida should abolish its A to F grades for schools."Grading system for schools under fire"
Sink Leads on Insurance Fiasco
Scott Maxwell: "Six months ago, when Floridians were clamoring for insurance relief, legislators promised us the moon."
Vows that rates would drop by an average of 25 percent were actually followed by proposed increases from some companies. Others offered minor cuts."Insurance fix may be in Cabinet under Sink".
Some relief. And all it cost us was $12 billion of risk. ...
Sink is ready to do something about it -- possibly alongside Charlie Crist.
At a recent Cabinet meeting, Sink suggested state leaders think about scrapping the so-called "reform" and starting over. And Crist seemed interested in what she had to say.
But instead of sending the matter back to the Legislature, Sink is now thinking about the possibility of the Cabinet taking over the issue. She revealed her new plans for the first time during a sit-down at the Sentinel, telling me, "We've got to figure this out."
"State lawmakers at a national conference get an earful of their peers' property tax struggles."
When Florida lawmakers passed a plan to reduce property taxes in June, they gathered under a sign boasting of historic cuts and spent 30 minutes slapping each other's back."Other states' tax advice? Good luck".
Problem solved, right?
"Six months after its first purchase, Pasco County's burgeoning environmental lands program is on the verge of securing its most significant tract yet - 210 coastal acres of Florida black bear habitat targeted for yet another subdivision." "A Bear Of A Deal In Pasco County".
"Kottcamp hits stores for tax-free shopping".
"The Florida law that shifted about $7.8 billion in property taxes from homesteaders to all other property owners this year is 'even-handed' and not discriminatory, a Tallahassee judge ruled Monday. Circuit Judge John C. Cooper dismissed a suit filed by Alabama citizens who say they're paying an unconstitutional amount of taxes for second homes in the Panhandle." "Judge dismisses Save Our Homes challenge". See also "Judge Dismisses 2nd-Home Owners' Property Tax Suit" and "Judge: Save Our Homes fair to all". More: "Supreme Court may consider part-timers' Save Our Homes suit".
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board:
Monday's ruling won't be the last word on Save Our Homes. But it and other legal inequities - such as multibillions of dollars in business tax exemptions that escape serious scrutiny - likely will have the helpful effect of illustrating the dire need for major tax reform."Save our state".
The problem is complicated, but the timing is excellent, as policymakers and their advisers must deal with revenue shortfalls, budget cuts and growing demands for services. We can only hope they take the long and possibly politically difficult view instead of one designed primarily to ensure re-election.
"Bring It On"
"Florida GOP leaders are scheduled to meet in Orlando this weekend to finalize plans for divvying up delegates to the 2008 nominating convention after the state holds one of the nation's first presidential primaries."
The clash between Florida political leaders and the national parties escalated Monday when the state's GOP chief vowed to fight ''tooth and nail'' to make sure the state is not penalized for moving up its presidential primary right behind Iowa and New Hampshire."GOP chief vows to protect state presidential primary".
The law that bumped up Florida's vote from mid-March to Jan. 29 violates rules set by both national parties aimed at protecting the traditional early primary states.
The national parties are threatening to take away half of Florida's delegates to the 2008 nominating conventions, making the state half as powerful on the national stage.
The response from the parties' top leadership in Florida: Bring it on.
Just Say No
"After decades of presiding over explosive population growth, South Florida's water managers say they're starting to say no." "Water managers for state begin to stem growth".
"Mitt Romney has the money and the political organization to be a front-runner in the Florida's Republican presidential primary, and now, he told a crowd in Tampa on Monday night, he's going after the public support." "Romney Pledges To Raise His Profile". See also "Romney says you don't know him", "Romney says hello to Tampa" and "Romney met warmly despite low Florida numbers".
We're not sure if this is sad, pathetic or both: "Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney placed himself alongside President Reagan as the perfect conservative during a campaign event Monday." "Romney says he is a perfect conservative, just like Reagan".
Hacks Target Klein and Mahoney
The Palm Beach Post's Joel Englehardt
During its first decade, the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care has been quick to protect Medicare payments to nursing homes. What could be better for America's elderly than an industry watchdog fighting for their rights?"Behind those nursing-home ads".
In newspaper and television ads targeting U.S. Reps. Ron Klein, D-Delray Beach, and Tim Mahoney, D-Palm Beach Gardens, the alliance points out that Congress doesn't have to cut Medicare spending for the elderly to help uninsured children receive subsidized health insurance through the SCHIP program. Congress can do both.
No matter how powerful an advocate, that's a strange position for a group that not so long ago had then-lobbyist Haley Barbour as its chief spokesman. Mr. Barbour, now the governor of Mississippi, is a champion of Republican tax cutting. The alliance's position on the children's health-insurance bill that Congress passed, however, makes the group seem more like the "tax-and-spend" Democrats Mr. Barbour used to vilify as national GOP chairman.
So who is behind this champion of the elderly poor? The alliance is no industry watchdog. It is the industry.
"Floridians defeated casinos in bruising statewide votes in 1978, 1986 and 1994. But that was before poker rooms throughout the state and slot machines at Indian reservations and Broward County parimutuels made Florida what it rejected three times over: a gambling state." "More casinos seem a sure bet".
Stop The Presses
"Brown-Waite: She’s Running for Re-Election".
"Almost a year after Wal-Mart Stores started a prescription-drug price war with its $4 generic-drug program, Publix Super Markets took things one step further Monday by offering a few of its medications for free. The Lakeland-based grocery chain said customers will be able to get prescriptions for seven oral antibiotics filled at no cost at any of the chain's 684 pharmacies in the Southeastern U.S." "Publix offers free medicine". See also "Publix offers 7 prescription antibiotics for free".
"Biggest domestic policy failure"
The Palm Beach Post editors:
For Floridians, Everglades restoration has been the Bush administration's biggest domestic policy failure. The White House commitment to the 50-50 state-federal project never has moved beyond words."Everglades: Override Bush".
So it did not come as a shock that President Bush said he would veto the Water Resources Development Act, which Congress approved last week after months of negotiations. The bill authorizes $6 billion for ecosystem restoration, with $2 billion for Everglades projects and the rest for Mississippi, coastal Louisiana and the Great Lakes. The National Audubon Society considers them all to be vital, overdue projects.
There "a growing number of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans who [have] joined the ranks of Florida's homeless after returning home. Experts say a system already buckling under one of the nation's largest homeless populations might collapse under the weight of a new wave of veterans, many saddled with mental-health issues and crippling brain injuries." "Homeless vets: A hidden crisis".
Well, at least "Jeb!" got rid of the intangibles tax.
"Former State Rep. Carlos Lacasa, a Miami Republican appointed to the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission by House Speaker Marco Rubio, wasn't too keen Monday on the idea of crafting a constitutional amendment on property taxes that would grant broad powers to the Legislature." "Former legislator doesn't trust legislators".
Bill's "Inner Stud Muffin"?
We missed this Daniel Ruth piece the other day:
During his years in the U.S. Senate, Bill Nelson, D-Catatonia, has carefully cultivated an image of sober-minded probity that makes Billy Graham look like a lounge lizard."Nelson Reveals He's Really A Stud Muffin".
So it had to be something of a shock to the normally stolid, reserved, sedate Senate chamber recently when Nelson, D-Hey Baby, unleashed his inner stud muffin.
The Orlando Sentinel editors argue that
it is absolutely wrong for one part of the government to hire lobbyists to gain access and influence other parts of the government."A sick system".
Deutch Hearts Hill
"Deutch endorses Clinton". More Hill: "Clinton charms Destin crowd" and "Bill Clinton says Hillary gaining military support".
Running Business ... Well ... Like a Business
"Federal authorities accused American Express Bank International of Miami and American Express Travel Related Services Co. Inc. of Salt Lake City of violating the Bank Secrecy Act. Both entities - without admitting any wrongdoing - consented to the penalties assessed by the Fed and FinCen, the two agencies said in their joint release." "Feds: Miami-based American Express fined $65 M for violation".
The Sun-Sentinel editors: "The proposed National Catastrophe Insurance Fund would pool state and federal money to cover stratospheric losses after a major disaster, be it a hurricane, an earthquake or some other act of nature. If it becomes law, and it's long past due for this to become reality, the fund could help lower private insurance costs for homeowners and businesses. That makes great sense for residents of Florida and other coastal states in harm's way." "Get presidential hopefuls on board with national disaster insurance bill".