So much for reining in "'outsourcing' fiascoes"
Bill Cotterell observes that
the outcome was never in doubt, but it was interesting to see the Florida House split along party lines when state Rep. Curtis Richardson, D-Tallahassee, tried to save 14 jobs in the Department of Management Services. ...And this is particularly ironic: "Besides the human-relations and supplier-diversity offices,"
Among the cuts were 11 positions from the Florida Commission on Human Relations staff and seven from the Office of Supplier Diversity - which Richardson proposed reducing to three cuts for the human-relations panel and one for the diversity office.
Rep. Loranne Ausley, D-Tallahassee, said she was especially worried about the proposed staff cuts of the new Council on Efficient Government. The council was created to prevent the kind of "outsourcing" fiascoes that have marked privatization of state personnel services, and problems with purchasing and accounting contracts.It is easy to understand why these particular cuts were made: You see, these jobs and their respective agencies
are an annoyance for the businesses that fill GOP campaign coffers."State workers lose in predictable party-line votes".
"Another 'only in Florida' moment"
The Sun-Sentinel editors: "Democrats can be a feisty, and at times self-defeating, bunch. Still, the idea of a national political party forcing its members from an influential state to sue them on the eve of a presidential election is another 'only in Florida' moment." "Florida Democrats make federal case out of presidential primary". More: "Florida Democrats say primary politics much ado about nothing".
While slashing positions in agencies tasked with preventing "the kind of 'outsourcing' fiascoes that have marked privatization of state personnel services, and problems with purchasing and accounting contracts", House Speaker Marco Rubio's House [also] cut $5,000 from the Florida Supreme Court chief justice's discretionary fund and $1,828 to Nova Southeastern University to help balance the state's budget, [yet at the same time] he continues to pay a well-connected GOP consultant $10,000 a month, even though she produced no written work in the month of September."
Donna Arduin, once former Gov. Jeb Bush's budget chief, was rehired by Rubio, R-West Miami, starting Sept. 1.More on the wingnuttery she espouses:
He had paid her firm $70,000 for seven months of work, ending in June, to help articulate his plan to reduce or eliminate homestead property taxes and instead raise the sales tax.
This time her job is to provide "consulting services" on the budget cut bill that passed the House Friday. But she has provided no written reports, analyses or recommendations since her contract was renewed, according to Rubio's office.
Her partners are Arthur Laffer - known for the Laffer Curve, made famous as the underpinning for President Reagan's massive tax cuts in 1981 - and Stephen Moore, former head of the anti-tax Club for Growth."Pricey GOP consultant eludes state budget cuts". The St. Pete Times editors had this to say last year about Ms. Arduin: "This is adult supervision?"
In recent years, Arduin and her firm have worked for a number of proponents of the "fair tax," which would replace income taxes and property taxes with increased sales taxes.
Many other economists, most Democrats and some Republicans, including Florida Senate Majority Leader Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden, call the sales tax regressive because it proportionately affects the poor and the middle class harder than it hits the rich.
"It's a pretty right-wing idea that's horrible policy," said House Democratic leader Dan Gelber of Miami Beach.
Eliminating the property tax would require the state to raise its sales tax from the current 6 cents on the dollar to 13.5 cents, making an already regressive system intolerable. Yet Donna Arduin, a [Property Tax Reform] committee member who was the former budget director for Gov. Jeb Bush, acts as though fairness is a quaint concept. "The property tax system we have now isn't exactly the opiate," she told members, according to published reports. "Let's not just use the old adage 'regressive' and dismiss it.""Political stunts aren't tax reform". We took a closer look at Ms. Arduin last year:
With such flippant discourse, the committee last month agreed to keep the issue alive and undermined their credibility as a competent, realistic panel.
Who is Donna Arduin? She is a principal in Arduin, Laffer & Moore Econometrics ("ALME"). See also "Former aide to governors forming consulting firm". Yes, that "Laffer": namesake of the Laffer Curve, referred to in this New York Review of Books piece by Jason Epstein as "the crackpot theory that led Ronald Reagan to believe that huge tax cuts in federal taxes would lead to federal surpluses, when the actual outcome proved to be a cumulative deficit of $3.5 trillion." It seems her company is also in the business of attacking Democratic initiatives. See, e.g., "Michigan: Evaluating the Granholm Tax Plan"."The Real Culprit".
Perhaps most importantly, Arduin is a cheerleader for the wingnut Fair Tax proposal to change "United States tax laws to replace the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and all federal income taxes (including AMT), payroll taxes (including Social Security and Medicare taxes), corporate taxes, capital gains taxes, gift taxes, and estate taxes with a national retail sales tax, to be levied once at the point of purchase on all new goods and services." See ALME's "A Macroeconomic Analysis of the Fair Tax Proposal (.pdf)". Donna apparently thinks sales taxes are good and all other taxes are bad.
Bushco Disses the 'Glades
The Miami Herald editorial board: "President Bush has a peculiar way of showing his support for the environment. While campaigning in 2004, he toured an Everglades wildlife reserve and said, 'My administration is committed to conserving Florida's natural beauty.' Yet now he threatens to veto a water-resources bill that could jump-start funding for the stalled Everglades cleanup." "Everglades deserve strong support".
A Horror Film
"Lights! Cameras! Chads!". Check out the Buffy connection, which seems apt for some reason I can't quite put my finger on: "Stars' roles for 'Recount' flick hanging like chads".
The Nursing Home Resident Lobby Falling Down on the Job
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Large private investment groups wouldn't be buying up nursing home chains if there wasn't big money to be made. And there is nothing wrong with that. But it unconscionable that to maximize profits some firms neglect the needs of the frail and elderly in their care."
Both state and federal regulators need to respond to alarming trends in the nursing home business.Florida's response? Well, you can guess:
A recent New York Times report detailed how private investment firms have bought up nursing home chains and created nearly impenetrable webs of affiliated companies that minimize any one firm's responsibility for what happens in a home.
The Times showed that at 60 percent of the homes bought by large private equity groups from 2000 to 2006, managers cut the number of clinical registered nurses, sometimes far below legal requirements.
Those homes also typically scored worse than national rates in 12 of 14 indicators that regulators use to track ailments of long-term residents.
It is dismaying the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, the state's chief nursing home regulator, seems unconcerned about the Times's finding. ..."Florida Needs To Scrutinize For-Profit Nursing Home Industry".
Molly McKinstry, chief of AHCA's Bureau of Long Term Care Services, says the state agency hasn't analyzed how health and safety citations correlate to nursing home ownership since these new corporate structures emerged.
Gov. Charlie Crist should order such an analysis immediately and determine if the state's current laws and standards - touted as the best in the nation - remain sufficient.
The government shouldn't fool itself: How these companies are structured does affect patient care. Firms that seek to enhance the bottom line by recklessly reducing staff and maintenance should be held accountable.
Florida's Booming Economy>
"Foreclosed homes a new blight".
"No thanks to State Farm"
The Palm Beach Post editors: "On Thursday, it looked as though no-fault auto insurance was going to perish in a head-on collision between the Florida House and Senate. On Friday, the House blinked in that little game of chicken - and Floridians will benefit. That's no thanks to State Farm, which pretended to be standing up for consumers by claiming that an end to no-fault would lower premiums. But Sate Farm and other insurers really wanted a legislative crash that would allow them to avoid paying claims until forced to do so by a court." "No-fault fender-bender, not consumer crack-up".
"Congress is finally listening to Florida's pleas for help in providing affordable hurricane insurance to property owners."
Under a bill that passed the House by a wide margin, federal wind insurance would be offered to homeowners along with flood coverage. It's no coincidence that provision was introduced by Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi, where insurance companies refused to pay wind claims after Katrina, saying that flooding caused the damage. If this measure passes the Senate and survives a threatened presidential veto, homeowners with federal flood and wind insurance could avoid such denials of claims in the future. However, this program wouldn't necessarily make hurricane insurance more affordable because the bill calls for rates to be actuarially sound.There's a problem, though. The St. Pete Times editors note that
The catastrophe fund bill - written by Florida Reps. Tim Mahoney and Ron Klein, both Democrats - offers more direct rate relief. The bill won support from two of Florida's Republican representatives on the Financial Services Committee in a 36-27 vote. The bill would allow states to voluntarily pool their resources to support catastrophe funds such as Florida's. Those states would also be eligible for low-interest federal loans in the event of liquidity problems or losses beyond the capability of their funds.
the insurance industry, the Republican Party and the Bush administration continue to oppose such legislation."Risks of disaster must be shared".
"The Palm Beach County employee [Water Resources Manager Ken Todd] who wrote a long-awaited report on rock mining in the Everglades Agricultural Area has faith in the workings of government. But his work on the report - resulting in the omission of critical information - should give the public less faith in the workings of government. ... weakening Mr. Todd's report are his childish reasons for omitting Ms. White's comments. Ms. White took three months to put her initial thoughts in writing, Mr. Todd said in a memo to county commissioners. 'By then I didn't need her write-up,' he wrote. Two weeks later, when she sent the six-page report, he found that 'the document went into several areas that a number of us felt went outside the scope of the study.' Finally, Ms. White sent an e-mail saying 'if we were not going to use their document in its entirety, then not to use it at all.' Mr. Todd wrote to commissioners, 'I had no problem with that.'" "Fix in for EAA mining?".