Rubio's bout with
Senate President's Speaker's Disease
S. V. Date hits a home run this morning:"Republicans to the rescue (from a tax crisis they manufactured)": "This is the tale of three Republicans: Charlie Crist, who elevated property tax to a crisis during his 2006 campaign for governor; House Speaker Marco Rubio, who staked a claim to the party's conservative wing by trying to own the issue; and Senate Majority Leader Daniel Webster, that chamber's center of gravity and the man who last week delivered the issue for Gov. Crist"
.The real insight Rep. Rubio offered was into his own self-image: the idea that a Florida transplant would have any idea who the state House speaker had been years earlier."It's not surprising that Rep. Rubio, only 36 years old, was susceptible." It was all bright light, big city for the empty suit:
It was only the latest manifestation of Rep. Rubio's bout with Senate President's Disease, so named because it typically hits presiding officers of that chamber. They start believing the lobbyists and other courtiers in the nine square blocks surrounding the Capitol who tell them what a wonderful governor or U.S. senator they would make one day.
In this term, it has hit neither the titular president, Ken Pruitt, nor his shadow co-president, Sen. Webster. But it became apparent as early as last year that it had stricken Rep. Rubio, who already had used the Republican Party imprimatur to finance his "100 Ideas" machine that featured, of course, himself.
After all, he'd been tapped by no less than Jeb Bush himself as his ideological heir apparent. But Jeb Bush had a brother in the White House, his family name, his larger-than-life personality, and an extraordinary grasp of details [sic] - and he still had problems with the Florida Senate.Read it all here. The latest antics of St. Marco: "Rubio: Petition for more tax cuts".
In contrast, Rep. Rubio had some of Mr. Bush's old staff, a style that bordered on glib, and a fondness for sweeping, big-picture ideology that was hazy on the details. To top it off, he surrounded himself with allies who remain angry that Gov. Crist beat their preferred candidate in the Republican primary last year.
Which is why, in the speaker's battles with the Senate and despite the conciliatory language toward the governor, it wasn't close to a fair fight. After Gov. Crist took the lead on property insurance in the January special session, Rep. Rubio called dibs on property taxes - and insisted on the right-wing solution of the moment: eliminating property taxes and increasing the sales tax.
Even last week, Rep. Rubio decried the other players' lack of "leadership." The other players, understandably, wondered how merely believing Rep. Rubio's ideas to be more "bad" than "bold" made them lousy leaders.
Not that it mattered. The Senate already had grown tired of Rep. Rubio's aggressive style - at one point he called property taxes "immoral" - and eagerness to accuse them of opposing "meaningful" tax relief. So, when Sen. Webster came up with a plan to give Gov. Crist almost all of what he wanted and Rep. Rubio almost nothing of what he wanted, and, best of all, to send it to Rep. Rubio so late that he had no choice but to accept it or be blamed for not providing tax relief - well, the Senate passed it 35-4. Having no choice, so did the House.
GOPers just can't do the "hard work"
"Perhaps lawmakers were just whipped after a full year of wrangling with tax reform in the regular session and two special sessions."
[T]oo many state lawmakers seem to forget or choose to ignore that Florida gradually has shifted more of the tax burden to local governments, especially for education, law enforcement and social services. This shift is aggravated by Florida's basic tax structure, which relies heavily on sales taxes, a regressive mechanism that takes more money from the poor and middle-class to support state government."True tax reform is really hard work".
Any real reform of property taxes would be so costly that paying for it should be spread more broadly than current schemes at tempt. This would call for another look at some of the $14 billion removed from state coffers since 1998 by tax cuts and loopholes that primarily benefited corporations and wealthy residents. There is still time for comprehensive reform. The commission and Legislature should look at the big picture, not just the part that suits their agenda.
Is Rudy really the Florida GOPer choice?
Giuliani's "distortions about European medicine may make for entertaining campaign rhetoric, but they offer nothing to the 47-million Americans who have no insurance and are typically turned away from doctors' offices. As a new survey in Health Affairs reports, although the U.S. spends twice as much on health care per capita as other industrialized nations, adults here have less access to doctors and are more likely to skip medicines."
[I]n Florida, where Giuliani still leads in the polls among Republicans, the State Health Insurance Advisory Board reported Monday that one in every four people had no health insurance last year. That number has increased 38 percent in just eight years."Giuliani's dose of fear".
The total number of the uninsured is only part of the growing health-care puzzle, though. In Florida, the number of people who are covered through their workplace has continued to plummet. Last year, according to a new Economic Policy Institute survey, only 50 percent of workers were insured by their employer - ranking the state 46th in the nation.
"Ten months ago, Gov. Crist and Department of Children and Families Secretary Bob Butterworth correctly excoriated their predecessors' "delay just to delay" stance against Marissa Amora, a permanently brain-damaged 8-year-old whom the state alternately fought and ignored since being ordered in 2005 to pay $26.8 million for neglecting her as a toddler."
Now, though, the governor and Mr. Butterworth also appear to be wavering on the state's commitment to pay for Marissa's care."New stalling by Florida on care for a little girl".
From a man who was born on home plate and thought he hit a homer (apologies to AR): "Jeb chimes in on the GOP presidential race".
Hiaasen: "a massive environmental crime"
One of South Florida's dirtiest secrets is the daily dumping of a half-billion gallons of sewage into the Atlantic Ocean."Counties flush dirty water into the ocean".
The polluters are the governments of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, which use submerged pipes to pump the ''minimally treated'' wastewater two to three miles off our beaches.
It's a massive environmental crime that hasn't received much public attention, probably because it takes place underwater and out of sight.
But, at long last, the state Department of Environmental Protection is seeking to shut down the pipelines and halt the flow of urban sewage into the ocean. The DEP says the counties should recycle the wastewater instead of flushing it on the reefs (or what's left of them).
The official reaction of county leaders has been remarkably devoid of shame or remorse. They strongly oppose the DEP initiative, saying there's no conclusive evidence that a daily deluge of 500,000 gallons of crappy water seriously harms marine life.
"How many favors will it take?"
Randy Schultz: "What Florida needed from the Legislature this year, Florida didn't get. What Florida didn't need, Florida got."
Florida needed effective property insurance reform. As the rate filings of the past few months have shown, what the Legislature passed in January didn't work. After hearing promises that rates would drop by one-fourth, policyholders got grumpier with every non-decrease, also known as a rate increase. . . .Schultz asks "how many favors will it take?"
One reason the governor coveted a tax amendment - even after the Legislature had passed a property-tax cut that is showing up in mailboxes as the new bills arrive - is because the insurance plan failed. Between now and Jan. 29, when Floridians vote on the tax amendment, the governor will try to talk about nothing but taxes. Starting in February, though, he and the Legislature need to talk again about insurance.
Last week, the National Federation of Independent Business/Florida praised the news that workers compensation insurance rates will go down almost 20 ''percent more next year, for a savings statewide of $700 million. Since 2003, when the Legislature "reformed" workers comp, rates are down 50''percent."Noel has gone, but insurance storm hasn't".
That's because the 2003 law cut benefits even more than the previous three workers comp "reforms." Having received all the favors they could extract, practically freed from having to pay claims, the companies lowered rates.
That's how some insurers make money in Florida: They get off the hook for things that might cost money. When mold became a scary issue, coverage for mold went away. When sinkholes in the Tampa Bay area became a problem, the Legislature gave companies a break on sinkhole coverage. And, of course, companies are dropping wind coverage in Florida, even though they keep making lots of money.
Sure, taxes are a big deal. But as The Post reported last fall, businesses were expecting property insurance increases of about 400 percent. Insurance is "the single biggest variable affecting capital flows into our state and industry for the foreseeable future," said the chief investment officer for Stiles Corp., a major South Florida developer.
But Florida got no insurance reform and the wrong kind of tax reform. Reject the amendment, so 2008 can be a do-over year. Florida needs it.
The Tampa Trib editorial board: "This newspaper, led by reporters Lindsay Peterson and Billy Townsend, has drawn back the curtain on CSX this year to reveal a culture that, quite frankly, treats Florida taxpayers like serfs." "Relegating Public To Caboose Derails Confidence In CSX".
"Crist heads to Brazil to boost trade, business ties".
There's an idea . . .
This is probably not one of Marco's 100 fab ideas: "Former Florida Senate President John McKay has proposed a plan that could cut property taxes up to 45 percent by eliminating sales tax exemptions that mostly benefit businesses. McKay filed the proposed state constitutional amendment Friday with the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission on which he serves." "McKay files proposal to lift sales tax exemptions".
Bill Cotterell observed the other day that "we are a big, growing, diverse state with a strait-jacket revenue system based on a regressive, Swiss-cheese tax code. The sales tax, mainstay of our budget, is riddled with exemptions that were enacted not because they produce jobs or spur the economy, but because somebody hired the right lobbyists." "This isn't reform".
Better late than never?
"Rosier's lawsuit, filed Thursday, claims [winner] Dorworth did not follow state statute because he filed his resignation from the Seminole Soil and Water Conservation District board by e-mail, not in writing, and that he failed to file copies with the governor and secretary of state. ... copies of Dorworth's resignation were delivered to the governor and secretary of state on Friday." "Opponent's lawsuit has no merit, says District 34 House candidate".
"State Rep. Bob Allen is facing the fight of his life this week as his trial on a charge of soliciting prostitution begins Monday in a Brevard County courtroom. But just finding a fair and impartial jury could be one of his toughest battles, said Allen's attorney Greg Eisenmenger." "Publicity worries Allen's defense".
Florida's booming economy
"Florida's recovery from an economic crunch driven by the slumping housing market will take longer than previously forecast, state economists said." "Economists forecast slower housing slump recovery".
Well, at least the crime rate is down ... isn't it? "Florida Crime Rises Slightly in 1st Half of 2007".
Mike Thomas: "Look what is going on in Atlanta. That is our future. It is time to change our habits." "Water wars will land squarely on home turf". See also "Water wars pit Florida oyster industry against Georgia, Alabama".
On the cutting edge
"Tucked away under the heading 'energy devices based on renewable resources' is Florida Statute 163.04. The Legislature passed the law in 1980 mainly to protect solar energy projects from the petty constraints of local ordinances, the objections of fussy homeowners' associations and the impediments of narrow-minded deed restrictions, but it also explicitly protects your right to put up a clothesline." "Exercising my right to dry".
The Orlando Sentinel editors: "Mr. Rangel would pay for abolishing the AMT by raising taxes on Americans making more than $200,000 a year and letting the Bush tax cuts expire. If that sounds hunky-dory, consider that Florida would be hit with a bigger hike than any other state, according to GOP Rep. Connie Mack."
Is Mack saying we lead the nation in folks who make (not necessarily earn) "more than $200,000 a year and [would otherwise pay more by] letting the Bush tax cuts expire"? If that is the case, Florida has a more serious problem with income disparity than I realized.
Let's hope he stays away from the French wine
"A Central Florida legislator is taking a paid trip to study nuclear plants in France, put on by an industry group that hopes to spur more nuclear-plant construction throughout the United States." "Constantine to see French nuke plants".
You remember Mr. Constantine, not a man who is shy about using his connections - even if he is drunk as a skunk; according to the police officer who arrested him:
"As I talked to him, I smelled the strong odor of alcoholic beverages coming from his breath, Ertel said. "His eyes were red and glassy and he had a difficult time talking..."It's not like it was his first time. Ironically, "as a member of the state House of Representatives, Constantine pushed for a bill that toughened Florida's drunken- driving laws.".
In a four-minute videotaped session at Orange County's DUI test center, a visibly despondent Constantine asked 10 times to speak with Sheriff Kevin Beary.
"I would like to talk to Kevin Beary first," Constantine said on the tape when told his license would be suspended for a year if he refused to submit to the test. "I don't believe that I was impaired and I'd like to talk to Kevin Beary."
During Tuesday's hearing, Ertel also said Constantine also asked to speak to the Maitland police chief.
On a separate note, Constantine (or a staffer) apparently has a bit too much time on his hands: "someone at a Florida Legislature computer removed an external link about Lee Constantine's DUI in 2004 from his Wikipedia page." See also "State workers' trivial pursuit: Editing Wikipedia entries".
"DCF Task force says finding missing children a top priority".
Luvin' the private sector
The Sun-Sentinel editorial board always comes home to momma: "Floridians can trash private insurance companies all they want, but the Sunshine State needs a robust private market as much as it needs quiet hurricane seasons." "Robust private insurance market needed".
Expect a challenge
"Court challenge looms for tax plan" "Court challenge looms for tax plan". See also "Anxiety may buoy tax plan, some say" and "Despite reservations, lawmakers support giving voters final say on tax package".
From the "values" crowd
"New changes to a Medicaid waiver mean people with disabilities will receive fewer services from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities than before." "Democrat: State cuts mean fewer services for disabled".