The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "Florida's public schools face enough budget cuts without the state giving vouchers to private religious schools. Yet that is what two proposals before a supposed tax reform commission could do."
As if that weren't bad enough, the proposed constitutional amendments would try to fool voters with misleading language. Committees of the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission have approved both proposals. Much more here: "Vouchers lost in court, deserve no new chance".
The Florida Constitution says that no state tax money "shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect or religious denomination." That provision protects the separation between church and state, and most Floridians would want to keep it. But Patricia Levesque, one of six commissioners who has close ties to former Gov. Jeb Bush, wants to kill that provision.
"Florida Democrats could get a hearing in a matter of weeks on an appeal of the national party's decision to invalidate the state's presidential primary, a key party insider said Monday." "Florida Democrats to get hearing about delegates". William March: "Obama Manager Hints At Compromise" ("A top campaign aide for Barack Obama hinted Monday at the possibility of negotiations with the Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign over the banned Florida and Michigan delegations – negotiations said to be the only way of resolving the dispute.")
"Revenues in a nose dive"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "With Florida's economy and state revenues in a nose dive, legislators are confronting one of the worst budget crises in state history."
They already have cut spending for the current year by $1.6 billon. Still, revenue estimates for next year project an additional budget shortfall of up to $3 billion."Some cuts hurt more than others"
Facing a challenge of this magnitude, the best approach would be to consider all options. Cutting spending is not the only solution. Budgets can be balanced by savings and revenue increases, too.
Unfortunately, the Legislature plans to impose across-the-board cuts in next year's budget. That would be politically easy, but imprudent.
"Hillsborough County says it's so strapped for cash it's willing to yank out the crepe myrtles, shrubs and ornamental grasses from medians on state roads to save the cost of tending them." "Trees, Shrubs Could Fall To Budget Ax". See also: "Florida drug treatment programs may get cut" and "Funding dim for area projects".
Those damn public employees again
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "To address the Good Friday fiasco that hit Hillsborough schools last week, administrators should revise the liberal [sic] leave policy that allows teachers, staff and bus drivers to take off any day of their choosing, no matter if their actions collectively shut down learning for our children." "Public Employees Aren't Entitled To A Free Pass On Good Friday".
Just say no
"Florida's tax commission will decide Wednesday whether to give the proposed constitutional amendment [to cap state and local taxes, fees and other revenue] a green light by putting it on the November ballot."
It's a version of what's known as the Taxpayers Bill of Rights that's been advocated nationally for more than a decade by conservative and libertarian groups to limit taxes and government growth. At least 30 states currently have some type of taxation or spending limit and three have both."Tax cap sponsor says proposal a caution light, not stop sign".
The pending proposal likely would be the most far-reaching revenue restraint Florida has ever seen.
"The state should scrap the current investment account for local governments and start a new pool with more safeguards. That's the advice of a special legislative panel convened after an investment scare last year." "Lawmakers recommend SBA changes following investment pool run".
Cigarette tax increase?
"For nearly two decades, while almost every state has raised its tax on cigarettes, Florida's has remained the same: 34 cents a pack. Has the time come to increase it? There's a renewed effort, spearheaded by South Florida Democrats and health-care advocates, to boost Florida's cigarette tax by $1 a pack, to $1.34. The national average for state cigarette taxes is $1.12." "$1 cigarette tax hike proposed".
Here's an idea, instead of taxing one of the few "luxuries" poor people can afford, why not ... you know ... close corporate tax loopholes and reinstate the intangibles tax. See e.g., "House GOP stomps 'Democratic tax hike'"..
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "Mayor won't come clean".
Out here in the fields
"Ag-Mart Produce Inc. has settled a lawsuit with a farmworker couple whose baby was born without limbs after the mother worked in the company's tomato fields during her pregnancy, the couple's lawyer said Monday." Don't you hate it when farmworkers whine just because "the company sprayed pesticides while they were working in the fields." "Ag-Mart Produce settles lawsuit over farmworkers' deformed baby".
Florida's booming economy
"Median prices in Florida fell 16 percent to $198,900, with the Miami area dropping even further at 20 percent. Unlike on the national level, sales in the state fell 25 percent." "Home sales rise unexpectedly but prices keep tumbling".
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Migration has many causes but, without a doubt, the cost of living and quality of life are two big reasons why people leave. South Florida's cost of living, especially for housing, is pushing people out. If this region wants to hang on to a healthy middle class, leaders must heed the message of out-migration and increase affordable-housing stock. ... South Florida counties still are too dependent on tourism and construction to fuel their economies." "Moving on up -- and out of South Florida".
Pruitt's "Anti-Academia Act"
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "Not every Florida university needs to offer a medical degree or other costly graduate and research programs, but a bill that would create a new tier of undergraduate colleges has surfaced for the worst of possible reasons. "
It has sprung from a Legislature that resents university leaders who speak out on budget cuts, and that prefers instead to offer college degrees at bottom-dollar prices. ..."Lawmaking by grudge".
The motivations behind this undergraduate college plan are revealed by the financial climate and the legislative vehicle in which it travels. The financial climate is the bleak $2.5-billion shortfall lawmakers face this year and the universities that are already being forced to reduce fall enrollment. The legislative vehicle is a constitutional amendment pushed by Senate President Ken Pruitt that also would abolish the current university Board of Governors, a bill that might as well be labeled the Anti-Academia Act. ...
The frantic pace at which these higher education bills are moving through the Legislature is in character with the dismissive anger that drives them. The Pruitt amendment would also convert the K-12 education commissioner from an appointed to an elected office. In one amendment, thus, the Legislature would be telling voters they were wrong about the education commissioner and wrong about the Board of Governors. Neither change has been in effect for longer than five years.
Pruitt, at least, hasn't tried to disguise his animosity toward Florida's university presidents and leaders. But on Wednesday all 40 senators are scheduled to take sides in his grudge match. Are they, too, willing to treat the state's leading universities as though they are enemies of the people? Are they willing to throw out the Board of Governors and shuffle the community-college deck for the purpose of bolstering Pruitt's bruised ego?
"Hoping to drive home the fact that Floridians could face thousands of dollars in additional insurance charges after future catastrophic storms, a House insurance committee spent hours Monday grilling officials from the state's Office of Insurance." "State insurance officials face hearing". See also "Atwater: Extend Citizens rate hold".
Good luck with Plan B
The Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial board: "Emergency contraception -- also known as "Plan B" or "the morning after pill" -- is safe and extremely effective. Unfortunately, Plan B has become tangled in the public's mind with RU-486, a drug that causes abortions in early-term pregnancies. And anti-contraception activists have exploited that confusion to push their agenda, demanding "conscience" exemptions for pharmacists who refuse to stock and dispense Plan B -- even to rape victims."
"Last week, a state House committee took testimony on a bill (HB 385) that would require hospitals and other health care providers to advise rape victims of the availability of Plan B, and require pharmacies to dispense it when requested. The bill deserves approval. There's no good reason to deny traumatized women information they need -- and every reason to keep them from being further victimized by an unwanted pregnancy or abortion." "Compassion in 'morning after pill' disclosure".
"Education officials are looking for 17,000 new teachers this fall, compared to 32,000 in 2006. Officials blame it on looming state budget cuts and lower enrollment tied to the economic slump." "Enrollment declines, budget cuts spur declines in teacher demand".
The poor things
"You are a lobbyist, charged with bringing home state money and support for the organization that employs you. But this year, money is alarmingly sparse. And your boss' boss is suing the very lawmakers you're trying to lobby. Such is the situation facing Florida public university lobbyists, who are trying to work in the midst of an ongoing dispute over who should control university tuition — the Legislature or the Board of Governors." "University lobbyists caught in Florida's cross fire".
Daniel Ruth poses a question: "Let's say you work for one of Tampa's ambitious hotsy-tots who has just had a big-shot business deal scuttled by the Tampa City Council."
Because this is a family newspaper, let's describe the Daddy Warbucks' state of mind as being royally ... peeved off."But that didn't prevent local car dealer Jason Kuhn, who owns Kuhn Honda Volkswagen, from hitting up his employees and their families for about $18,000 to support the candidacy of that great pillar of democracy Julie Brown, who was seeking to upset council incumbent John Dingfelder in last year's city elections."
One day your boss and/or one of his apparatchiks comes to your desk and suggests what a whiz-bang idea it would be if you were to make a political contribution to a favored candidate in an upcoming election, who by amazing coincidence, just so happens to be running against the very city councilman who voted against the earlier business plan.
Here's the best part. If you pledge, oh let's make it a $500 contribution, the mogul will give you the money back and no one will be the wiser.
As violations of law go, bundling contributions through family members, friends and employees is about as obvious a naughty no-no of elections statutes as - despite its obvious charms - blowing up a political opponent's campaign headquarters.
Dingfelder had opposed a Kennedy Boulevard real estate development effort of Kuhn's to replace a strip mall with a used car lot, which led to the entry into the council race of Julie Brown, a champion of used car lots far and wide. ...Read the whole thing here: "This Law Stuff Can Be So Annoying".
After a yearlong probe by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, investigators concluded that Kuhn did induce his employees to contribute to Brown's campaign secure in the knowledge they would be paid back.
Yet Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober has decided not to file charges against Kuhn, noting: "the interest of justice do not indicate that criminal charges should be filed in this case."
Look, no one is suggesting Kuhn needs to be placed in stocks in the public square. But Ober's reluctance to prosecute a prominent businessman smacks of a double standard of justice - one for the poor saps who are sitting in Orient Road Jail because they lack juice and another for the deep-pocketed who can knowingly flout the law.
Wayne NeSmith, the president of the Florida Hospital Association and Tony Carvalho, the president of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida write a guest column in the St. Petersburg Times:
Florida's full-service hospitals are facing huge cuts in federal and state funding to care for the elderly, poor and uninsured. They're grappling with serious shortages of physician specialists and other health care workers."We need more doctors, no hospitals".
Now, along with these profound challenges, there is a proposal in the Florida Legislature to eliminate the state's planning process for new hospitals. Full-service hospitals are united in their opposition to this proposal because it will further destabilize Florida's health care landscape.
Eliminating health planning for new hospitals will lead to the explosion of small "limited service" hospitals and a two-tiered hospital system in Florida: one for the poor and uninsured, and another for healthier patients with private insurance. ...
Florida leads the nation in percentage of residents over 65 and 85; one in four residents under 65 is uninsured; and huge cuts in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements are looming. Against this backdrop, legislators must avoid taking unwise actions that further destabilize health care. Now simply isn't the time to consider eliminating the state's planning process for new hospitals.
Running government like a business
"State employees' personal data may have been exposed using a 'proxy server'".
It helps to have a good football team
"The University of South Florida is among the top 10 universities in the amount of money it receives through special requests inserted into the federal budget by friendly members of Congress." "Lawmakers Keep Pork On USF's Plate".
"State Sen. Evelyn Lynn is asking Florida State University to allow her to continue in a $120,000 job she helped create -- only now she no longer wants to be paid." "Lynn wants to keep FSU post, not pay". See also "Triple-dipping senator gives up third state paycheck".