Since 2002, daily Florida political news and commentary


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Welcome To Florida Politics

Thanks for visiting. On a semi-daily basis we scan Florida's major daily newspapers for significant Florida political news and punditry. We also review the editorial pages and political columnists/pundits for Florida political commentary. The papers we review include: the Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Naples News, Sarasota Herald Tribune, St Pete Times, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Tallahassee Democrat, and, occasionally, the Florida Times Union; we also review the political news blogs associated with these newspapers.

For each story, column, article or editorial we deem significant, we post at least the headline and link to the piece; the linked headline always appears in quotes. We quote the headline for two reasons: first, to allow researchers looking for the cited piece to find it (if the link has expired) by searching for the original title/headline via a commercial research service. Second, quotation of the original headline permits readers to appreciate the spin from the original piece, as opposed to our spin.

Not that we don't provide spin; we do, and plenty of it. Our perspective appears in post headlines, the subtitles within the post (in bold), and the excerpts from the linked stories we select to quote; we also occasionally provide other links and commentary about certain stories. While our bias should be immediately apparent to any reader, we nevertheless attempt to link to every article, column or editorial about Florida politics in every major online Florida newspaper.


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The Blog for Saturday, March 22, 2008

More on those "local and state government" employees "fattening up" on "overly generous" wage and benefit packages

    As Florida's editorial boards keep telling us - e.g., the Orlando Sentinel's Febuary 10, 2008 editorial "Fattening up: Local and state governments are overly generous to employees" - Florida's public employees are "fattening up" on "overly generous" compensation packages. Consider:
    Eight years ago Kelvin Haywood needed surgery for a dislocated spine after being choked unconscious by an inmate at the state hospital where he works. He's still being tested for HIV and hepatitis after being bitten on his upper arm by another inmate a year ago.

    His pay for dealing with dangerous inmates: $24,000 a year. ...

    Haywood, 47, is among thousands of low-paid state workers with dangerous jobs and has little hope of a raise this year. That's in a state that spends less per capita on its work force than any other, according to a recent study by the Pew Center on the States and Governing.
    The study shows Florida "dead last in the investment made in state employees."
    "A travesty," responded state Rep. Lorranne Ausley, who blames much of that poor ranking on former Gov. Jeb Bush. "All they did was take away all the protections for state employees. There were two years during the Bush administration where they got no raises at all." ...

    Elva McCaig of Milton has been a licensed practical nurse for more than eight years at a Panhandle prison where she earns less than $30,000 annually and must use vacation time and spend her own money to maintain her professional credentials.
    And this is a particularly nice touch:
    And to make things even more difficult for some workers, new hires are often paid more because starting salaries have increased since many long-time employees were hired. Those increased salaries weren't given to those already working.

    "It does seem like a slap in the face when you have to train somebody with absolutely no experience that makes more money than you do," [complained yet another whining state employee.]
    "Study: State Workers Shorted on Pay". One supposes that treating public sector workers like garbage is one way to make government buildings "empty of workers", consistent with "Jeb!"'s "universal and timeless" "JFK-Like" vision, as "clear and electrifying as [the inauguration] day's cobalt blue sky." Myriam Marquez, "Bush Vision for Florida is JFK-Like" Orlando Sentinel, January 12, 2003.

    Jeez, I wonder why is the hotel worker unionization rate* is so low in Florida?

    "The leader of a ring that grossed $50 million by employing illegal workers in hotels in Central Florida and other Southeastern states was sentenced to three years in federal prison this week. ... Up to 40 Central Florida properties paid workers hired through Adelco subcontractors such as ISS International. They included Disney's Swan and Dolphin hotels, Best Westerns, Holiday Inns, Radissons and Hilton Garden Inns. Most of the workers were eastern Europeans, but some were Mexicans, court records show." "Employer of illegal workers gets 3 years".

    No mention in the articles as to whether any of the Best Westerns, Holiday Inns, Radissons or Hiltons are in any trouble over their involvement this massive racketeering scheme of exploiting workers. Perhaps these fine, rock-solid U.S. corporations simply thought they were merely lucky to acquire a compliant work force uninterested in wage increases, benefits of any kind and ... God forbid ... unionizing and bargaining collectively.

    Likewise no mention of how many other risk-taking, hard charging John Wayne-type entrepreneurs with job-creating businesses like Adelco and ISS are supplying hotel housekeeping, security, food service and front desk employees to the Florida tourism market. Similarly no discussion in the article as to whether these illegals were under the ridiculous (after all, this is the United States of America) impression that they might be deported if they had the temerity to ask about being paid more than minimum wage (assuming they were paid the minimum).

    Of course, all that is beside the point because - as the traditional media tells us - these (exploited) foreign workers are simply doing the work that U.S. workers who have been "fattening up" on "overly generous" compensation packages would never do - to wit, jobs compensated at or below minimum wage (something illegals of course can't complain about) without health insurance, retirement benefits, vacation, sick time, and all those other benefits lazy Florida workers expect from their masters employers.
    - - - - - - - - - -
    * The same question could be asked of other industries, including residential construction jobs, semi-skilled jobs in commercial construction, agricultural work, and the myriad other jobs being performed by exploited illegal workers.

    Florida bucks

    "Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama each raised more than $1 million in Florida last month -- about twice as much as Republican John McCain -- despite rising frustration among Democratic voters over whether they would get to help pick their party's nominee." "Democrats outraised McCain in Florida".

    Where Jebbie's grand jury?

    The Palm Beach Post editors: "Much as the Federal Reserve improvised to avert a Bear Stearns collapse, Florida's State Board of Administration - the governor, attorney general and chief financial officer - made up the rules as they went along, including a decision to freeze the pool's deposits. To avoid that white-knuckle improvisational approach in the future, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink has proposed that the Legislature authorize a more in-depth analysis of what went wrong in the first place. Then the Legislature would implement reforms to make sure that it doesn't happen again in any of Florida's 30 investment funds containing $184''billion overseen by the State Board of Administration."

    Most of the proposals are nuts-and-bolts stuff. But anybody whose goal is to improve oversight of the funds also has to deal with a couple of political issues. One is that shortly after Gov. Bush left office in January 2007, he became a consultant to Lehman Brothers, which then sold Florida a lot of the bad investments.

    Ms. Sink, a Democrat, doesn't deal directly with that link. Instead, she proposes that Florida "determine if there is a basis for a lawsuit regarding investments sold to the state by investment firms." In an interview, she noted that Lehman Brothers "had decided late in 2006 that they didn't feel confident about these investments, but the next thing I know, Lehman is selling" Florida the same investments.

    Another political issue is that the person in charge of approving investments was Coleman Stipanovich, a former Jeb Bush campaign manager and brother of Florida GOP lobbyist Mac Stipanovich. Any probe of what happened should include thorough questioning of Coleman Stipanovich, who has been forced out. But he hasn't been questioned under oath, and Ms. Sink said it "hasn't been discussed."

    Still, the CFO's call for more disclosure by fund advisers and for setting rigorous qualifications for those seeking Mr. Stipanovich's former job clearly and appropriately are inspired by questions surrounding the Jeb-Lehman Brothers-Stipanovich association. More nuts-and-bolts fixes would add financial professionals to the SBA and otherwise improve the quality of investment advice, and require better auditing.
    "Add number of police on Florida's Wall Street". Please remind me what Buddy Dyer did to be suspended from office by "Jeb!"?

    It all depends on what your definition of "first reported" is?

    "The wife of a top aide to Gov. Charlie Crist resigned her new state job on Friday, just two days after the hiring was first [sic] reported by The Miami Herald [and seven days after the hiring was "first reported" by this website in 'Charlie's Angel']." "Controversial Crist appointee steps aside".

    Sales tax exemptions

    "Eliminating sales-tax exemptions could add $12.3 billion to state revenue, but experts say it's more complicated than you think."

    ''You will hear about the need for strong economic development,'' says [Tallahassee lawyer who has been a member of both Florida tax commissions, Martha] Barnett. ''These are very legitimate arguments.'' Equipment for new businesses and goods used for research and development are among the exemptions.

    Bob Graham, the former governor, is not so sure about business exemptions. ``I think they should have to prove that the exemption is really necessary for their competitiveness.''
    "Just no simple way to end tax breaks".


    The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "State lawmakers have a full plate this year balancing the budget and righting Florida's economy. They should not be wasting their time on silly legislation or secondary matters not thought through. That's why it was good to see several bills dismissed so early this session that were either premature or outright ridiculous." "It's silly season at the Capitol".

    No go on re do

    "A federal court Friday rejected an appeal aimed at making the Democratic Party count Florida's votes at its presidential nominating convention." "Court rejects appeal to count votes". See also "Court Dismisses Fla. Challenge" and "Court tosses appeal to force DNC to accept Florida delegates".

    Good luck

    "Jim Hannagan is not politically connected or active in the local Democratic Party establishment." And with all due respect, it shows: "His strategy: Get 1.5-million Democrats throughout Florida who voted or are registered to vote to sign petitions Hannagan will deliver to the DNC. So far, volunteers in Pinellas, Leon and Duval counties have collected about 7,000 signatures in 12 days, Hannagan said." "Delegate fray stirs grassroots petition effort".

    At this rate, they'll get the 1.5 million sigs in about 875 days.

    Pave it over

    The Tampa Trib editors: "Facing a $4 billion budget shortfall, some lawmakers and special interest groups are quietly eyeing growth management laws as sacrificial lambs, wrongly figuring that fewer regulations will jumpstart Florida's sluggish home market and economy. It would be a colossal mistake to slash growth reforms that require roads, schools and water resources be created concurrently with new subdivisions." "Relaxing Growth Controls No Fix For State's Money Crunch".

    Great work if you can get it

    GOP "State Sen. Evelyn Lynn, who last year helped Florida State University get $1 million to set up a literacy center in her home district, was later hired to run the place for $2,300 a week -- the equivalent of almost $120,000 a year." "State Sen. Evelyn Lynn runs center she helped fund".

    Welfare mothers

    "CSX would be off the hook for any accidents it caused to passenger trains, under a deal moved forward by a House committee Thursday." "State House Panel Advances $491 Million CSX Deal".

    Welcome to Florida

    For decades, many innocent dupes "have bought Central Florida swampland from a variety of sellers, not all of them honest." "Internet deals mire unwitting buyers in inaccessible Green Swamp land".


    The Daytona Beach News-Journal editors: "Florida lawmakers found a greasy way to celebrate Sunshine Week, the celebration of open meetings and open records that Gov. Charlie Crist declared 'vital to establishing and maintaining the people's trust.' Thirteen House Republican leaders -- and only Republicans -- gathered in secret at a colleague's Tallahassee house to share pizza and swap ideas about state business, including gambling, taxes and fees, and their legislative agenda." "Secret-pizza government".

    Tax swap math

    Mark Lane does the math:

    The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission voted Monday to put a tax swap on the ballot. Florida would trade in required local effort and replace the money with a penny increase in the state sales tax and some cleaning up, adjusting and expanding the sales tax.

    This would give property tax payers a big cut -- how much depends on where you live -- but 25-40 percent would be in the ballpark.

    Now, put down those noisemakers.

    Remember this is a tax swap, not a tax cut -- assuming everybody still wants to have a public school system.

    The one-cent sales tax increase won't come close to buying out the required local effort.

    Here's the math in big, round estimated numbers.

    Cost of giving up required local effort: $9.3 billion.

    Money raised by increasing the sales tax by one cent: $3.3 billion.

    I got out my calculator and discovered a gap of $6 billion. That's the part that would need to be found by fixing sales-tax loopholes.
    "Tax swap plan has its risks".

    Those commie teachers' unions

    "Ninety-two percent of Brevard Public Schools teachers who took part in a poll organized by the teachers union voted to reject the bonus money. More than 2,700 of Brevard's 5,000-plus teachers participated in the poll." "2nd thoughts".

    Another disgruntled former employee

    "The former president of The Greenbrier, who resigned after less than a year at the famed resort, has filed a $50 million lawsuit against Florida-based railroad giant CSX Corp., claiming he was forced out of his job for trying to end "fringe benefits" enjoyed by CSX executives." "Former Greenbrier president sues Fla.-based CSX over departure".

    The debate over Florida's future rages on

    "Crist may share NAACP's view on school pants bill".

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