"Florida government has weathered tough times before, but there have never been so many storm clouds on the Sunshine State's horizon at the start of a legislative session."
"For the first time in history, Florida's general revenue has fallen for two straight years," Kurt Wenner, director of tax research for Florida TaxWatch, said at a recent seminar sponsored by the government watchdog group and the LeRoy Collins Institute at Florida State University."In addition to signs of a national recession — always a red flag in a state dependent on tourism — Florida is coming off a two-year building boom that was fueled largely by recovery from the eight hurricanes of 2004-05. The slumping housing market not only hurts blue-collar employment and purchases at the neighborhood hardware store, but it also dents consumer confidence and postpones big-ticket purchases like automobiles, further depressing sales-tax collections."
Well, at least there is no good news on the horizon:
Carol Weissert, the Collins Center eminent scholar chair for civic education and political science, said 77 million baby boomers are reaching retirement, with a disproportionate number of them heading for Florida, increasing demand for a wide range of state services. And "the mobile elderly are the least likely to support new taxes," she said.And then there is the raw political courage of the RPOF dopes running this state: "Add to the equation the political impracticality of an election-year tax increase, not to mention the opposition by the ruling Republicans."
Of course, there's the "wisdom" and "innovation [sic]" of the newest generation of RPOF "leadership": "Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, wants continued tax cuts. Rubio is pushing for 'agency eliminations,' through merging functions or turning some duties back to cities and counties." "Legislative session begins with cuts".
"One year after Gov. Charlie Crist swept into office vowing to drop the hammer on insurance and property-tax rates, the slogans and pomp are gone. The jovial mood has soured. There are no rocks to drop or banners hanging in the Capitol's rotunda proclaiming 'Florida's Largest Tax Cut.'"Elections, sour economy loom as Legislature opens session this week".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Despite Mr. Crist's rosy outlook, the state's economy looks like it's going to get worse before it gets better. Spending this way would only dig the state deeper and force even bigger cuts next year if the economy does not rebound." "Legislators should show the discipline they've asked of local officials".
Steve Bousquet: "Budget-cutting knives clatter". The Tallahassee Democrat coverage of the session: "Legislative session begins tomorrow: here's what to expect".
Poor little Marco
"On the eve of his final legislative session, House Speaker Marco Rubio received another in a series of setbacks that have dogged Florida's first Cuban-American speaker over the past 18 months: His chamber lost a GOP seat to the Democrats. The latest defeat came Tuesday in a special election to replace Rep. Bob Allen, a Merritt Island Republican who was caught up in a sex scandal. Though the GOP still holds 77 seats in the 120-member House, the loss was a disappointment for Rubio, who last year watched seven Republican House seats go Democratic and had his ambitious plans to reduce property taxes and shrink government thwarted by a more moderate Senate and a popular governor." "Rubio's undeterred by series of setbacks".
Free to be stoopid
"The evolution argument has officially reached the Florida Legislature, courtesy of Sen. Ronda Storms. Storms, R-Valrico, filed a bill on Friday that would permit public schools teachers to present evidence in class that contradicts the theory of biological and chemical evolution. The 'Academic Freedom Act' comes from activists who failed last month to convince the state Board of Education to write their proposal into the state’s new science teaching standard, which explictly requires the teaching of evolution." "Storms Files Evolution Bill".
Poor Mr. Happy Face
With "a combination of a dismal economy, an irascible Legislature and the traditional sophomore slowdown may limit Crist's reach in his second year." "Year 2 for Crist looking tougher". The Miami Herald editorial board: "Tough choices await state lawmakers".
"Time to settle"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "South Florida residents have long contended that the state's citrus-canker eradication program was poorly conceived, badly executed and inherently unfair. Several courts have now validated those perceptions with evidence and convincing proof. So, it is time for the state to reconsider its position and sue for peace. It is time to settle." "The bell tolls for canker program".
"A new center at UF aims for students interested in public service and political leadership." "Learning to serve, lead".
No "extra cash to sprinkle around the budget"
"Ending the 60-day session on time has not been a problem in the dozen years since the Republicans took over, but doing so has usually meant the presiding officers and appropriations chieftains have a little extra cash to sprinkle around the budget for going-home projects that members in vulnerable districts need. That won't be easy this year, with state revenues off by about $2 billion." "Tight budget may mean fewer 'bragging rights'".
The Librul media
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board brain trust: "Immunity for the telecoms makes sense." "Telecommunications firms deserve immunity from lawsuits over surveillance".
You can't make this stuff up
"One provision of Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff's 'global' compensation bill, (HB1025) dubbed the clean-hands provision, would deny anyone automatic compensation if he or she had prior felony convictions other than the crime they were proven innocent of, or if they committed crimes while in prison. That provision has angered activists familiar with such wrongful convictions." "Crotzer fights on for compensation".
The lesson? When falsely convicted and serving a life term, do not defend yourself when your cell mate scotch tapes a centerfold to your back and demands that you "bend over and spread your cheeks". You wouldn't want to commit a crime while in prison now would you?
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "There is no logical reason why sales taxes paid on goods such as sweaters or books bought in Florida stores can be avoided if those same items are purchased by mail order or over the Internet. That gigantic loophole is costing this financially strapped state maybe $2-billion a year in lost revenue, and the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission recommends that the Legislature make it easier to collect that money. Lawmakers ought to make that a top priority this spring." "Hit delete on Web sales tax exemption".
Mommy, are there "Democrats in Sarasota"?
"Sink rallies Democrats in Sarasota".
"The 5th Congressional District, which sweeps from Levy County in the north to part of Polk County in the south, has been a tough sell for Democrats since redistricting helped propel Brown-Waite to victory in 2002 over the now-chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party." "Dems sense shot at 5th District seat".
"Jan. 29 will be remembered as an extreme triumph for Gov. Charlie Crist, the day he beat the critics and proved how hungry people are for property tax relief. But to record history accurately, Jan. 29 should also go down as the moment Florida's unfair tax system became more so." "Unfair system's a little more so now".
"Mopes in Miami"
Tom Blackburn has a point:
The well-publicized parts of the terrorism battle haven't been edifying. Not unless you are edified by the arrest of some mopes in Miami who are willing to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago - if the government's stalking horse will give them explosives, and if he will teach them how to use them, and if he will tell them where Chicago is and how to get there and, oh, by the way, if they can find someone to pay their way up there. For that we need a Department of Homeland Security?"Psst ... How's the war on terror going?".
And don't forget the paint ball guns.
Flash!!! Florida moving into the Nineteenth Century?
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "Cash-strapped and felon-filled states are discovering that the politically expedient punish-and-banish habits of the last 25 years have created more problems than they're solving -- in costs to taxpayers, in broken families, in untreated diseases, in fostering an enormous subculture of ex-felons (Florida has more than 1 million out of a population of 18 million) who'll struggle to find willing employers." "Justice dungeon".
All is not lost - the Sun-Sentinel editorial board courageously asserts that "Nooses are not welcome in South Florida".
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: Florida "receives failing marks. In 2005, a statewide Florida Bar survey revealed that more than 40 percent of Florida citizens could not correctly identify the three branches of government. This lack of knowledge has metastized into lack of action. Among the 50 states, Florida was 39th in average voter turnout in the 2004 general election. We are a woeful 49th in volunteerism." "Florida must take lead in renewing citizenship".