"For a guy who keeps saying he's too focused on Florida to think about being John McCain's running mate, Charlie Crist finds a lot of time to talk to the national media about how he's so focused on Florida." "Don't forget your day job, governor".
"Florida’s economic engine is sputtering pathetically"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "If lawmakers don't know it already, they will discover when they convene in Tallahassee Tuesday for the 60-day legislative session that the party is over. We're not talking about the lobbyist-fueled party circuit, but about running one of the largest states in the union, which is in deep trouble." "Tough choices await state lawmakers".
And Charlie's solution? The usual - Don't worry, be happy: "Florida’s economic engine is sputtering pathetically, lawmakers are nervously eyeing painful budget cuts and Gov. Charlie Crist, the optimist in chief, is gambling that prosperity is just around the corner." "Crist figures prosperity will help state overcome its economic slump".
And we've heard this before, haven't we?: "With growth and revenues at historic lows, experts say we should shift to a technology economy." But there's a catch, it "would mean funding items that legislators are about to cut." "Florida at a crossroads".
"At the bottom of an abyss"
"Addressing the state's budget woes exposes ideological rifts among lawmakers. The expected clashes may result in deep and lasting political wounds." "Budget woes will dominate 2008 session".
"Rubio continues to eye his role as an eventual springboard to future office and Pruitt remains his willing straight man. But different philosophies and a series of battles between the House and Senate have damaged the Pruitt-Rubio collaboration. And now the pair face their toughest challenge yet: cutting the state budget by $2-billion." "Session set, but with less harmony".
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "When Florida lawmakers gather in Tallahassee on Tuesday for opening-day festivities, there will be a $2 billion gorilla in the House and Senate chambers -- the growing hole in the state budget that threatens to engulf other issues and suck most of the joy out of a traditionally celebratory day."
Unless lawmakers should also face up to their fiscal mistakes -- for instance, repealing the intangible property tax exemptions they passed in this decade that took billions out of state coffers and handed them back to wealthy investors."The Budgetary Domino Effect". On gambling, Scott Maxwell writes that "The indisputable fact is that gambling is already here. And Floridians are so starved for it, they're willing to go to a casino without odds-friendly table games to pour their money into cash-hungry machines."
Gov. Charlie Crist's recommended budget relies on increased gambling, higher local property taxes for schools and trust-fund raids to patch budgetary gaps. If Crist is right about the economy rebounding, his plan might not do much damage to the state's future fiscal stability -- but most economists don't share his optimism about Florida's sagging housing and tourism markets. If lawmakers adopt his short-term fixes instead of embracing long-term change, they could find themselves at the bottom of an abyss next year.
More: "Crist's legislative priorities", "Thoughts from leaders on legislative session", "Top priorities of legislative leaders", "Putting the economy back on track", "How low can the tax cuts go?", "Courts and colleges may feel a pinch" and "Budget key at legislative session".
"Sixty-five percent of diddly"
"The '65 percent solution' was a national movement popular after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when the nation's economy foundered and school funding was reduced."
Democratic minority leader Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, criticized the plan for obscuring the real problem: that schools will not have the money they need this year. Plus, depending on the definition of classroom spending, many districts could already comply, rendering the plan useless."Educators unhappy with Crist solution".
"It makes it look like they're solving a problem," Gelber said. "Sixty-five percent of diddly is still diddly."
Thank goodness for those "influential sponsors"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "As usual, plenty of good ideas will try to wedge their way into the discussions that begin Tuesday. But even in normal years, only a fraction of the bills filed become laws. This year, the Legislature will devote the first part of the session to budget-cutting - this year's. The Legislature then will devote much of the rest of the session to budget-cutting - next year's. Anything else will require an influential sponsor and an extra-good case." "Yes, there's the budget; there's also a lot more".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "NASA's proposal to plow its coastal refuge mustn't get off the ground". Mike Thomas: "NASA probably won't build launchpads on the worst site imaginable".
"Despite his much-publicized disagreements with the Republican Party's conservative base, Sen. John McCain is the GOP's best possible presidential nominee for 2008, conservative pundit Fred Barnes told party activists Saturday. Barnes, the Fox News personality and editor of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine, headlined the Palm Beach County GOP's annual Lincoln Day dinner. About 450 people attended the event at the Kravis Center. The party expected to raise about $120,000 after expenses." "GOP should back McCain, pundit says".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Last year, newly elected Gov. Crist shook up the South Florida Water Management District board in a good way. With one more good shake this year, he'll get the board just about right." "A good job nearly done".
False convictions stink
"It is a stench Alan Crotzer will not forget." "From bitter taste of prison to sweet freedom".
"Nationally, 5.3 million people are barred from voting because of their criminal history, according to a 2004 estimate cited by the Sentencing Project, a criminal justice policy group. In the last decade, as criminals who were swept into prison during the drug war have been released and the difficulty of re-integrating them into society has become clear, at least 16 states have made it easier for felons to vote." "Some felons get right to vote back; some had it all along".
More from the "values" crowd
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "Florida is second in the nation in the share of general government revenue it spends on corrections. That financial measurement is salient, since that same pot of money is used to pay for public schools and universities. Across the United States, prison spending over the past two decades has grown at five times the rate of education spending." And this is particularly cool: "Florida continues to stuff its prisons. Just last year, Gov. Charlie Crist pushed through a law that can lock up even those who have minor probation violations." "Locked into a prison mentality".
Back at the ranch: "Struggling to find space for inmates".
John Kennedy and Aaron Deslatte: "Nine".
That's the number of seats House Democrats have picked up during the past two years, marking what they say is the biggest legislative gain by either party in Florida in more than 30 years."Are state Dems' wins a turning point, or just a boost in number?".
Democrat Tony Sasso's victory last week in a special election to fill a Republican-leaning House seat in Brevard County is being hailed as a pivotal turning point. ...
Republicans control the House by 77-41. But Democrats are expected to retain a couple of seats in upcoming special elections to further narrow the gap to 77-43.
That's a long way from a majority. ...
Gelber sees a larger anti-Republican movement that he says can be traced back to House Speaker Marco Rubio's budget-cutting, socially conservative policies in Tallahassee. It's a theme Democrats plan to echo on the campaign trail this fall.
"I think they've spent a lot of their time pushing a right-wing agenda with PowerPoints and Newt Gingrich instead of recruiting credible candidates that represent their districts," said Gelber of Miami Beach.
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "As long as Florida's tuition rate is tied to Bright Futures, and the Legislature refuses to increase spending, the quality of the state's universities will continue to erode." "Backing down on change to state's scholarship program delays a needed fix".
Here we go again
"A year after passing a comprehensive package of property insurance reforms, lawmakers will consider reforms that would place more hurricane risk in the laps of private insurers." "Insurance Reforms On Table".
No taxes please
The nutty* Americans for Prosperity (who isn't) is "incredibly excited to see that a subcommittee of the state Taxation and Budget Reform Commission unanimously approved the Taxpayer Protection Amendment on Feb. 11." See also "Taxpayer Protection Amendment is essential".
* It is safe to say the courageously titled "Americans for Prosperity" is "nutty" inasmuch as it is "affiliated with" the scary Independent Women's Forum. "Both organizations share the same Washington address, and they also share most of the same operational staff."
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "USF Strategy For Top-50 Status Takes Back Seat To Political Pull".
"Proving yet again that nobody does bizarre elections like Florida, thousands of loyal Democrats turned out for a rogue election Saturday where the votes may not count and the winners may not win." "Dems select delegates". See also "Democrats select delegates". More: "Democrats choose delegates for district".
Bill Maxwell: "Many white people who complain about the use of African-American are shameless hypocrites." "Hyphens, histories and the hypocrites".
Randy Schultz asks "Which country does the United States government believe poses a greater threat to the United States: Cuba or Iran? Which country is it easier for United States citizens to visit: Cuba or Iran?"
The answers are Iran and Iran. Yes, Iran. Suspected-of-concealing-a-nuclear weapons-program Iran. Wipe-Israel-off-the-map Iran. The Holocaust-never-happened Iran. Aiding-terrorists-in-Iraq Iran. Axis-of-Evil Iran."Cuba, Iran travel rules are a trip".
If you're an American and you'd like to visit Iran, however, the American government won't stand in your way. The State Department will warn you, strongly, about anti-American sentiment. The U.S. doesn't have diplomatic relations with Iran, so if you get in trouble you're probably on your own. The department especially will warn Iranian-Americans that they might not be able to leave when their visit is over because Iran does not recognize dual citizenship.
Can you spell "stoopid"?
But travel to Iran is legal for Americans. You can book it online: American Airlines from Miami to New York, then Turkish Airlines to Istanbul and on to Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport, named for the leader of the Islamic revolution that took power in 1979 and held 53 Americans hostage for 444 days between November 1979 and January 1981. Fare: $1,500. ...
If you want to visit Cuba, though, forget it, in most cases. Unless you fit into one of a few categories - related to journalism or education - Americans can't go. If you have family in Cuba, you can go only once every three years. ...
How weird is that? You can visit a country half a world away that just a few months ago was being talked up as the next place the U.S. would invade. But you can't visit a country less than an hour by plane from Florida that threatens the United States about as much as Puerto Rico, which is part of the United States [Note to Ginny].
What about North Korea, the third country in Mr. Bush's Axis of Evil? The North Korea that has built several nuclear weapons on Mr. Bush's watch and whose leader the president called "a pygmy"? The U.S. government encourages Americans to register with the U.S. embassy in the Chinese capital of Beijing. Otherwise, have a great trip.
The Palm Beach Post editorial board finds it amusing that Dumbya would tsk-tsk Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for what he sees as their foreign-policy shortcoming "botched the war in Iraq, is botching the war in Afghanistan, cost the leaders of Britain, Australia and Pakistan - alleged allies all - their offices and/or parliamentary majorities, watched Hamas take control in Gaza and the North Koreans build nuclear weapons and ... well, much, much more."
I believe dream candidate St. Condi had a bit to do with these brilliant policies as well.