"Democrat Tony Sasso narrowly defeated Republican Sean Campbell by about 400 votes in Tuesday's election for state House District 32, ending a fierce battle marred by attack ads and misleading accusations in the final days of campaigning." "Democrat narrowly wins Bob Allen's Florida House seat". See also "Democrat Tony Sasso wins District 32 seat" and "Dems pick up the pieces in Bob Allen's seat".
The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Florida's budgetary problems are fast becoming a crisis that can no longer be blown off as simply the result of a bloated bureaucracy or the product of wasteful spending. The challenge is to find new revenue -- fast." "State of Florida desperate for new revenue sources". More: "Florida to revise sales tax in hopes of snaring Internet, mail sales".
Another gift from the "value" laden RPOF
The Florida Legislature is shaping plans to slash more than $500 million from this year's $70 billion budget shortly after the 2008 session begins next week."
"This isn't a good year for education, or really any agency," said Bill Montford, chief executive officer of the Florida Association of School District Superintendents."Florida K-12 likely to bear brunt of lawmakers' budget cuts". See also "Schools to take another hit from state".
Education is in line for the biggest cut — about $357 million, most of it from K-12. It amounts to about $55 per pupil during the four months remaining in the budget year.
Country clubbers in a quandry
"Power executives were still in the dark Wednesday about how a glitch at a substation triggered a blackout that cut power to millions across Florida, causing gridlock at dark traffic signals and forcing hospitals to scramble for generators." "Reasons for a blackout in southern Florida remain a mystery". See also "Millions affected by power outages", "FPL equipment failure knocks out power for 2.2 million across Florida" and "Station fire, failure cause Fla. power outage, close nuke plant".
"Knife trained on public good"
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "Some Republican legislators are using the state budget crisis as convenient cover for renewing their partisan attack against public campaign financing. Their time would be better spent repairing the damage they already have done instead of asking voters to kill it." "Budget knife trained on public good"
"Will Cuban Americans support Democrats?"
"Three congressional races in South Florida test a theory: Will Cuban Americans support Democrats?"
Weeks after the 2006 election, two Democratic strategists in Miami began poring over the returns, paying particular interest to a Republican-held state House seat in Miami-Dade that fell to the Democrats."Ambitious challengers target three in Congress".
Precinct, by precinct, they saw evidence that reliably Republican Cuban-American voters had crossed party lines and supported the Democratic candidate the pair had recruited to run. And with those findings, they sensed a more ambitious target: three Republican-held congressional seats in Miami.
'We were like, `Is this a freak of nature or is something happening here?' '' said one of the strategists, Jeff Garcia, referring to Democrat Luis Garcia's state House victory. 'What is it that compelled a bunch of Republicans in Little Havana to vote for a guy who has a `D' next to his name?''
"The congressional race between Raul Martinez and Lincoln Diaz-Balart may have significant national and international implications." "Cuba issue stokes S. Florida races".
Public grants, private colleges
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "Public grants to private college students pay off for Florida". "Covering tuition".
Job-training and education programs
"Black business executives urged Gov. Charlie Crist Tuesday to protect job-training and education programs as state lawmakers cut state spending in the 2008 legislative session." "Governor urged to protect job-training, education programs".
"Ice cream cones and certain candy bars would be exempt from taxation under a new recommendation aimed at taxing Internet and mail order sales." "To tax Internet sales, tax code tweaks needed".
"Attorneys and the father of a 9-year-old girl slain by a convicted sex offender said Tuesday the sheriff's office missed several opportunities to save her by failing the search the trailer where she was being held and wrongly focusing on family members." "Attorneys talk about Lunsford plan to sue sheriff over slaying". You remember Mark.
What do comments like this from the The Miami Herald editorial board - "The average age of the eight top members of the 'new' leadership is 70. Evidently, Cuba's leaders believe 'change' means a fading octogenarian giving way to a bunch of septuagenarians -- that and nothing more" mean for poor Johnny Sidney's campaign?
Another Jebacy of the "values" crowd
"Lack of money led the governor and Cabinet Tuesday to approve a conservation lands purchase list that places a priority on 21 projects statewide." "Crist, Cabinet OK lands purchase list".
"Crist signaled Tuesday that he doesn't like legislative leaders' half-billion-dollar plan for cutting this year's state budget, saying they should use reserves to avoid education cuts." "Gov. Crist urges Florida legislators to dig into reserve funds".
Bill Cotterell the other day:
The Department of Veterans Affairs, for instance, wants to take over some staffing at three nursing homes that were opened with private nursing-assistant and kitchen employees during the administration of Gov. Jeb Bush. This is the latest example of something that looked good at the time, but apparently didn't work out precisely as planned."Some privatization fails the 'cheaper, better' test".
Bush always advocated the "cheaper and better" idea, but his private-sector background and barely concealed disdain for most things governmental tilted any evaluation toward the outcome he wanted.
Some of Bush's privatization trophies are legend around here — People First!, MyFloridaMarketplace, the defunct "Aspire" accounting contract. One of the first things Gov. Charlie Crist did, in his polite and noncritical way, was to create a Council on Efficient Government to look into state contracting — starting with those three.
The Department of Management Services is now renegotiating with Convergys for the massive personnel privatization, a $350 million, nine-year contract that was the biggest such project of the Bush years. The state is looking for options on the purchasing contract, and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink (who, you'll recall, ran on a promise to end the spending spree in Tallahassee) suspended the Aspire project last year.
Crist, hardly a big-government guy, has quietly and diplomatically made some changes to his predecessor's approach.
Dragging their knuckles to the polls
"In 2004, when President Bush won Ohio by a razor-thin margin, guaranteeing his re-election, conventional wisdom said a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage on the Ohio ballot was part of the reason."
Gay marriage bans on ballots were credited with helping Bush in other states and affecting other races nationwide, by driving conservative voters to the polls."Will Gay Marriage Amendment Lure Voters To Polls?".
This year, Florida will have a similar amendment on its ballot, leading to speculation that it will affect voter turnout and maybe election outcomes - particularly since the apparent GOP nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, isn't popular with religious and social conservatives.
The amendment "absolutely" will drive conservative voters to the polls, said state GOP spokeswoman Erin VanSickle. "It's a Republican issue."
Opponents of the amendment even have suggested it was planned to help Republicans.
But political scientists who have studied the effect of ballot issues on voter turnout say that the conventional wisdom is probably wrong.
"Tax Tweaks Headed For Vote".
"It's all in who you know"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board flags a great class at UF:
Instructor: Senate Finance and Tax Chairman Mike Haridopolos."Course: Political Influence 101".
Content: This course covers the pitfalls of politics during lean budget years when otherwise prestigious and proud institutions -- including Florida's flagship university -- will stoop to amazing depths to curry favor with powerful politicians.
Prerequisites: None. It's all in who you know.
"Crist's proposal to make the unpopular MAP merit-pay plan more, uh, palatable to teachers will get serious consideration in the state House, Rep. Joe Pickens (left), chairman of the House Education Council, tells The Gradebook." "Legislators want more districts to award merit pay".
Acute Florida anxiety
"Anxiety is especially acute in Florida, the country's most diverse battleground state. Not only do Sunshine State Democrats see potential long-term damage should Florida wind up with no voice in the Democratic nomination, but they also see the prospect that the politics of hope could be trumped by the politics of race, gender and ethnicity." "Party frets over fractious tone".
"States' deal for water in trouble".
"The Crist Veep-O-Meter nudges a tad closer to vice president this week, though it has less to do with Charlie Crist than some other prospects for John McCain's running mate. Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison pretty much took herself out of the running last week. Meanwhile, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, an early McCain supporter who has at least as much vice presidential buzz as Crist, took a bashing in an op-ed by a Minnesota antitax activist last week. Minnesota Citizens for Tax Justice director Wayne Cox wrote that the 47-year-old Pawlenty can't deliver the state for McCain, that Minnesota has become more Democratic-leaning under Pawlenty and he has done little to help the economy. " "Crist's VP prospects are creeping upward".
Meanwhile, over in Bradenton ...
"Even though the Democratic National Committee stripped Florida of its delegates because the state scheduled an early primary, about 25 local residents are still trying for a seat at the party's national convention in August." "Local Democrats caucus Saturday".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Political parties like absentee voting because it's an easy way to make sure before Election Day that the faithful have voted. The parties should be more concerned about error rates that disqualify more absentee ballots than any other type. Yes, absentee ballots cause more rejected votes than touch-screen machines. The irony? Both parties use wariness of touch screens to encourage absentee voting." "Reduce absentee voting".
Cracking down on out-of-this-world pensions
The Tampa Tribune editorial board reminds us of the joys of public employment:
Imagine collecting your full retirement pension while still earning your full paycheck from the same employer. To do that in the private sector, you'd probably have to retire and find a new job."Bring State Pensions Back To Earth".
But if you're covered by the Florida Retirement System, as most government workers are in Florida, The St. Petersburg Times reports that a double salary is no fantasy.
If it were soaring investment returns that made such generosity possible, the situation would be less outrageous. But the fact is, taxpayers are covering the increased bounty.
The cost to the public of government pension benefits has soared 71 percent since the 2002-03 fiscal year. And the state now charges 9.85 percent of a regular employee's pay to keep the pension system funded. Five years ago, it was 5.76 percent.
Adding to the strain have been generous increases in salaries awarded by cities and counties as property values soared. Now that state and local governments are forced to make budget cuts, lawmakers need to rethink the merits of a pension system designed when government jobs were low-paying and many private employers offered pensions.
Now the private sector has virtually eliminated pensions for new employees and government pay is often higher than comparable jobs outside government.
And the point of this reference - "Now the private sector has virtually eliminated pensions for new employees and government pay is often higher than comparable jobs outside government" - is what? Surely the Tribune wouldn't suggest that the public sector ought to "eliminate pensions"?
The St. Petersburg Times editorial to which the Tribune editors refer:
In a time of economic strain, double dipping has become one of the fastest-growing parts of the Florida government budget, and lawmakers have only themselves to blame. The 8,000 employees who draw both a paycheck and a retirement check are just using the tricks that lawmakers gave them."Put a stop to retirement abuses"
The Librulls" on the Orlando Sentinel editorial board note that "the temptation among lawmakers next month to take a cleaver to Gov. Charlie Crist's proposal to spend $200 million on green technologies and practices could be great." "Not only is Crist's green initiative needed, legislators should go further".
"The House has hired Wall Street asset management expert Tanya Styblo Beder and Miami lawyer Thomas Tew of Tew Cardenas — the legal and lobbying firm led by former Florida GOP chairman Al Cardenas — to staff its inquiry." "Rubio hires 2 analysts for investment review".
"With the state mired in a deep recession, then-Gov. Lawton Chiles took the unprecedented step of going on statewide television on the opening night of the legislative session in 1991 to make his case directly to Floridians. Fast forward to March 4, and Republican Gov. Charlie Crist plans to do the same thing, asking Floridians to stand by him as he helps dig the state out of its worst budget crisis in three decades." "Crist channels optimistic Chiles in plan to soothe nerves on TV".
Well ... at least we don't tax those "intangibles"
"FDLE might reduce crime scene analysts".
"The Jeb Bush Junta years"
Daniel Ruth: "It's hardly a big surprise that during the Jeb Bush Junta years, the former governor had about as much use for the public's opinion as Heidi Klum seeking out Courtney Love for fashion advice."
Ergo, Generalissimo Francisco Bush's penchant for Government In The Black Hole, which helped spawn hinky deals such as the $491 million public money giveaway to CSX Transportation to help the company enhance its freight-hauling business."All Aboard The Tallahassee Sunshine Train".
The nearly half-a-billion-dollar civic lap dance dreamed up during the Bush regime would be used to buy up about 61 miles of CSX track in the greater Orlando area, which would then enable the choo-choo company to shift train traffic to a proposed Polk County hub.
The end result, should Bush's air kiss to CSX be approved, could lead to Lakeland becoming a daily Chinese Fire Drill of crisscrossing rail traffic causing more congestion than Dick Cheney's arteries. It won't be pretty.
Next week, the Florida Legislature will begin its annual oat-bag of political proceedings, and Bush's footsie-wootsie with CSX promises to be a significant item on the agenda.
"Firefighters should hear such words more often."