Sentinel Dopes are Duped
The brain trust over at the Orlando Sentinel editorial board still can't get it through their thick anti-union heads that teachers in Florida actually have a fundamental constitutional right to unionize and bargain collectively over ... oh, the horror! ... wage systems like "merit pay". For example, we get this gem of an editorial today about how those very scary "unions are hijacking merit pay for teachers":
We warned you not to hold your breath waiting for school districts to carry out the teacher merit-pay plan that Gov. Charlie Crist signed into law this year."Duped again - Once again unions are hijacking merit pay for teachers".
If you didn't take our advice, you must be turning blue by now. We urged Mr. Crist to veto the new bonus plan because it lacked one important element: School districts who aren't willing to go to war with their teacher unions won't be penalized if they don't implement merit pay.
No wonder the state's teachers union cheered when the Legislature approved the Merit Award Program, dubbed MAP. Each district is required to negotiate merit-pay plans with their teacher union, making it too easy for the union to derail the process. It's already happening in Osceola County, where last week the union said it wouldn't participate in MAP or help develop an alternative.
If a union says "no" in negotiations to merit pay, they are most probably at "impasse"; then, under the majesty of Florida labor law - and the Sentinel editors still can't seem to grasp this: no matter how much the teachers unions huff and puff, the school board, incredible as this may sound, has the sole power to unilaterally resolve the merit pay impasse in their favor. How then are the big, bad unions "hijacking" anything?
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "At the insistence of a federal official, the Everglades was dropped from an international list of endangered wildernesses."
Florida Sen. Bill Nelson is right to be outraged and demand an investigation into what appears to be an attempt by the administration to undermine protections for the River of Grass."Everglades Ambush Deserves Rebuke".
Last month, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior Todd Willens persuaded the United Nations' World Heritage Committee to take the Everglades off its lists of threatened wildernesses.
Everglades National Park scientists say politics was behind the decision.
Will RNC Chair and Bushco hood ornament, Mel "Karl Rove's Florida Frankenstein" Martinez join Bill Nelson in taking on this anti-'Glades political decision of his beloved Dubya's Interior department?
Times Have Changed
"A Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigator began interviewing public officials and private citizens this week in an election fraud probe of the mayor's race. ... Brown, who was mayor for eight years, alleged that Masters and his political consultant, Richard Giorgio, illegally obtained and distributed absentee ballots to voters throughout the city." "FDLE probing Riviera election".
Wait a minute, we thought it was perfectly okay for political operatives to actually remove absentee ballot request forms from the SOE's office, make changes and corrections to them, and resubmit the requests without complying with the statutory requirements for requesting absentee ballots.
After all, back in the 2000 election the Florida Supreme court ruled that the following conduct was perfectly OK:
The Supervisor’s office followed a policy of not issuing absentee ballots where the elector’s voter registration number was missing or incorrect on the request form. Further, it was office policy not to fill in any missing information or make any corrections or alterations to the request form without the express authority of the elector. Despite this policy and despite the requirements of section 101.62, Florida Statutes (2000), the Supervisor of Elections allowed representatives of the Florida Republican Party to remove several hundred request forms [which happened to also be public records] from her office in order to add missing voter identification numbers. After making these changes, the Republican Party officials returned the request forms to the Supervisor’s office. The Supervisor then processed the corrected request forms and sent absentee ballots to the voters.A .pdf of the slip opinion is here. And what were "the requirements of section 101.62, Florida Statutes (2000)" that were abrogated? The Florida Supreme court explained:
Section 101.62, Florida Statutes (2000), governs requests for absentee ballots. This statute provides that the supervisor of elections may only accept a request for an absentee ballot from “the elector, or, if directly instructed by the elector, a member of the elector’s immediate family, or the elector’s legal guardian.” Id. § 101.062(1)(b). [The list of those permitted to submit requests did not include Republican Party operatives.] Further, the person making a request for an absentee ballot must disclose the following information: the name of the elector for whom the ballot is requested; the elector’s address; the last four digits of the elector’s social security number; the elector’s voter registration number; the requester’s name, address, social security number and, if available, driver’s license number, and relationship to the elector, and the requester’s signature, if a written request. [Again, there is no exception to this requirement for Republican party operatives.]Times certainly have changed; I for one do not recall the FDLE investigating the conduct of Republican political operatives viz. absentee ballots back in 2000.
"Back to Reality"
"Environmentalists left giddy by Gov. Charlie Crist's recent stance on global warming were brought back to reality the other day. "
In filling three openings on the state commission that protects Florida's wildlife, Crist chose two people who make their living off land development (both are members of a trophy hunting club too) and a lawyer who represents developers. They will join four sitting members - all involved in the development industry."Fish, wildlife panel is developers' fan club".
Yes, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is dominated by developers. This is the same commission that until recently allowed developers to bury rare gopher tortoises alive. The same commission that wants to downgrade manatees from an "endangered" to a "threatened" species. The same commission that will have two members who listed on their applications membership in the controversial Safari Club International, whose motto on killing animals with antlers is: "If God grows it, we score it."
Q reports on the Economist's revised take on Florida's wunderkind Governor:
“Critics say the rates the state is letting Citizens charge are unrealistically low, and that the company is dangerously under-capitalised. With only a $1.9 billion surplus, it would quickly be overwhelmed by claims from a hurricane such as Andrew, the worst storm in Florida’s history, which provoked $22 billion in damage claims (in 2006 dollars) when it hit the Miami region in 1992. Even Wilma, a much smaller hurricane, cost $11 billion in damage claims in 2005."Crist back in The Economist, not so rosy this time".
“No wonder Mr Crist likes the idea of a national catastrophe fund, which would spread the risk across the country.”
"Giuliani names Florida county chairs".
NFIB Hearts Prop "Reform"
"The National Federation of Independent Businesses, a small biz advocacy group, announced their support this morning of the Jan. 29 ballot question that would phase out Save Our Homes in exchange for larger homestead exemptions. A poll of NFIB members in Florida showed 73 percent support the amendment. The NFIB does not have a history of sinking large sums of money into issue campaign, by new executive director Bill Herrle said he hopes that will change." "Biz support for PropTax change". See also "Small-business group comes out for tax amendment".
"Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute: Budget Cuts Would Kill Center".
Florida's death penalty is having less than favorable impact overseas:
The United Kingdom and members of the British Parliament asked Gov. Charlie Crist and the Cabinet to release a British citizen convicted of two Miami murders."British seek killer's freedom".
Big of 'Em
"Fla. won't put polluted water in Lake Okeechobee to help farmers" ("The board's nine members are chosen by the governor, and all four votes against pumping were made by Gov. Charlie Crist's appointees.")
The Palm Beach Post editors: "It was a stunning, welcome and overdue shift for the South Florida Water Management District Board. Since the 1960s, the board had supported the sugar industry's demands to pump runoff from farm canals back into Lake Okeechobee, to boost water supply during droughts. On Thursday, by a vote of 4-3, the board set a new policy: No back-pumping. Protect the lake first, and find other ways to help farmers. Back-pumping adds water, but it also adds tons of polluting phosphorus, nitrogen and pesticides." "At long last, Lake O becomes state priority".
"Tax cuts could hurt S. Fla. home sales, agents say".
"Voters' incremental restructuring [of Miami-Dade County's government] sometimes seems based on the popularity of the individuals proposing the changes more than the merits of their proposals. This is no way to build a fair and effective governing structure. To that end, the task force appointed to review the charter and recommend improvements to the government structure deserves public attention. Whether it will get it is doubtful. Charter review? Government policy? 'Ho-hum,' is the typical response."
Yet that apathy is why the County Commission can get away with things like a 2002 change that makes committee meetings the official public hearing for an issue, instead of when the full commission meets. This switch denies the public the opportunity to tell the entire board of commissioners what its views are on everything from how the airport is run to whether commissioners' staffs are bloated (they are). This arrogant public-hearing switcheroo should be on the task force's study list."For a fair, effective county government".
This News-Journal editorial on the conduct of the war is well worth reading: "Cache of incompetence".
On The Other Hand ...
We missed this the other day: "When Publix Super Markets announced with great fanfare [and media accolades]this week that it was offering seven generic antibiotics free-of-charge to its pharmacy customers, it was also quietly discontinuing a policy that had allowed customers to obtain scores of other medications for just $4 a prescription." "Publix's free-drug offer has flip side".
"Abdicating responsibility at the public's expense"
The St Pete Times editors: "If Florida lawmakers want to give up on no-fault automobile insurance, they at least owe motorists a good-faith effort to come up with something better. But just weeks before the law is set to expire, they plan to do nothing at all and leave Florida in a state that Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink accurately describes as 'mass confusion.' This is not legislative leadership; this is abdicating responsibility at the public's expense." "No-fault? It's Legislature's fault".
Another Jebacy Bites the Dust?
"Buried deep in the proposed budget cuts submitted this week by the Department of Management Services is a proposal to slash by 33 percent the Office of Supplier Diversity, a move that would cut 7 jobs and $442,000. This is the office that was set up by Gov. Jeb Bush to help shepherd his controversial One Florida plan _ which ended affirmative action in university admissions and ended preferences for minority vendors." "Dismantling of One Florida?"