"A day before the start of legislative session, lawmakers were slashing more than $500 million from the state budget, and showing signs of the bitter tensions yet to come."
The committee voted along partisan lines to approve a House plan that would slash $542.5 million, with much of the cuts coming from criminal justice and health programs.If you think the legislator-dopes' biggest concern would be something, anything other than who gets the "credit" for the latest dumb idea, you'd be wrong:
The House and Senate are expected to negotiate through the weekend, with a final vote coming early next week, according to House budget chairman Ray Sansom, R-Destin. ...
The latest deal still leaves more than half of the state's public defenders with budget shortfalls that will require 78 days of furloughs, Crist said. The offices would have to close from a single day in the least effected circuits to as much as 12 days in the hardest hit, including the two that serve Leon, Pinellas and Pasco counties.
State attorneys would still have to face two-day furloughs in the circuits that serve Brevard and Sarasota counties.
Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, fired the opening salvo between chambers earlier in the day when he accused his House counterparts of trying to steal his thunder."Lawmakers slash budget ahead of session".
Crist, who chairs the committee that oversees criminal justice spending, complained about a House news release that last week announced a deal to use more than $12 million in reserves to blunt recent cuts to the state court system.
Crist made sure the audience at his committee meeting knew that it was a Senate proposal.
There's more: "State lawmakers cut into the current education budget for a second time Monday while promising the worst is still to come." "For schools, a year of pinching pennies" See also "Education, health funds may be at risk".
See generally "Lawmakers cutting as the session arrives", "Lawmakers begin session facing grim economic news", "$500-million this year, $2-billion next year", "Legislature faces budget squeeze" and "Painful process of shrinking state budget begins".
This was all a direct repudiation of Mr. Happy Face's inane budget proposal:
"Charlie Crist postponed his annual state of the state speech Tuesday from noon to 6 p.m. on the chance that more people might tune in to the public television broadcast to learn how, as he describes it, 'to continue strengthening Florida's families, schools and economy.' But with the state budget in turmoil, the governor's how-to lesson in state finance [sic] might take convincing for his first audience -- the Florida Legislature -- because it is not buying his approach. On Monday, the eve of the regular session, House and Senate committees moved forward with more than $500 million in budget cuts, rejecting the governor's suggestion to cut fewer programs and tap into more reserve accounts." "Panels reject Crist's backup-fund plea".
And isn't this nice capper to a tough day:
Hours after a House committee approved more than a half-billion dollars in budget cuts, the atmosphere was relaxed and casual at the annual Associated Industries of Florida party a block south of the Governor’s Mansion."Legislators take last breath before diving into work".
It ain't all parties and budget cutting fun: "Rep. Juan Zapata, chairman of the Miami-Dade delegation suggested having the state's top lawyer write a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration to seek more low-cost flights in and out of the capital city." "Legislators furious about air costs".
Senate World: "This year, talk of Rubio -- and therefore the House's agenda-setting prowess -- was conspicuous in its absence. Last year, Pruitt couldn't praise Rubio enough as a 'star' and chief 'architect' of ideas that the ''master builders'' in the Senate would refine. But this year in a pre-session chat with reporters, Pruitt skipped any mention of Rubio, whose hardball politics in pushing for steep and politically unfeasible property-tax cuts estranged senators from both parties last year and during three tense special lawmaking sessions." "Senate president charts safe course for session".
Marco's House: "A shrinking state budget might prompt the governor and the Senate to push for more gambling revenue -- but House Speaker Marco Rubio says he won't budge." "Rubio says he will oppose gambling expansion". More Marco comedy in this puff piece from yesterday: "Rubio's undeterred by series of setbacks".
Crist-Land: "The governor's challenge in his state of the state speech is to explain his sunny outlook amid budget woes." See also "Hard sell awaits Crist in Capitol" ("It will take all the optimism Gov. Charlie Crist can muster in his State of the State speech today to put a happy face on the Florida Legislature's 2008 session.")
"Florida can't afford to be a patsy any longer"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "House Bill 1237 is almost unreadable, except maybe for tax lawyers. The sponsor, though, says clearly that the bill would close a corporate tax loophole and bring Florida roughly $400 million a year from income that has not been taxed."
Despite the dense language of the bill, House Minority Leader Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, can explain its intent. Florida allows corporations to divide how they report income. So, some large corporations pay taxes on less than their total income. Recognizing that multi-state and multi-national firms have many parts, Rep. Gelber's bill would establish "combined reporting" and tax them on what all those parts earn. Many other states already have made this change. ..."Another $400 million".
Some will call this a "new tax." But Florida can't afford to be a patsy any longer. This needless break is costing the state.
Marco's "utter nonsense"
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio cares so much about Florida's education standards the second of his "100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future" was creating a "world class" curriculum for our students."
Rubio never specifically defined what he meant in saying world class. But since the speaker began pushing lawmakers to continue the battle over teaching evolution in public schools, now we know."But in an interview in the Florida Baptist Witness, Rubio fed the anti-evolution hysteria by saying parents who teach their children creationism or intelligent design would be "mocked and derided and undone" in the public schools."
In Rubio's world, apparently world-class curriculum standards means undermining and ignoring the top-flight educators and scientists who spent months crafting and reviewing the guidelines to create a rigorous and appropriate science curriculum that would bring Florida's education into the 21st Century.
And it means allowing science teachers to infuse science curriculum with religion - with the state's endorsement and protection.
Rubio invited his fellow lawmakers to follow him down this path shortly after the Florida Board of Education adopted new standards last month requiring that evolution be taught in public schools.
Until that action, Florida's science curriculum standards were among the worst in the nation. Test scores were equally lamentable.
That's utter nonsense - and unfair to Florida's science teachers who understand that many students in their classroom have religious beliefs that transcend the day's science lesson."Evolution Scare Tactics Undermine Florida's Quest For Excellence". More: "Storms proposes Academic Freedom Act" ("The state senator files a bill to protect teachers who present other arguments.")
Rubio further inflamed the situation by suggesting that this standard makes schools, not parents, responsible for a child's upbringing.
Really, Mr. Speaker? We would suggest if parents' years of influence are negated in a single science lesson, they probably didn't make a big impression on their children.
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "Florida desperately needs strong leaders who govern not with their districts in mind, but with the whole state as their collective concern. And we need leaders who appeal to the highest common denominators and best instincts of citizens in our diverse state instead of pandering insincerely for votes." "Legacy lawmaking".
"Facing a lean revenue situation this year, Tallahassee-area legislators say they’ll try this session to protect proposed raises for state workers ... ." "Local legislators will try to protect state employees in lean times".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Before this year's legislative session, which opens today, there was plenty of talk about cutting money from the budget. There was little talk of raising money. Hold on. We're not for a state income tax. But with the Legislature looking at a $2 billion budget deficit for next year and Florida creeping toward tax-cut hysteria, it's time to pause and discuss how the state could bring in more money simply by enforcing tax rules fairly." "Tax all sales, anywhere".
"Stung by angry cries from citizens, state lawmakers are drafting bills that could put an end to future double-dipping by some members of the state retirement system. But they say they can't stop everyone already getting a pension and a salary. " "Opening day: Double-dippers beware".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "They're blaming each other and federal negotiators for failing to agree over the weekend on how they can better share water stored in federal reservoirs in Georgia. But officials in Tallahassee, Atlanta and Montgomery instead should blame themselves and local officials throughout their states for putting themselves and their states in so untenable a position." "Our position: The water war among Florida, Georgia and Alabama could have been avoided". Mike Thomas: "People will save water when it drains budgets".
See "Water projects targeted by Calhoun, Liberty counties.", "What's at stake in your community?", "Chances slim Madison County will get state money for EMS facility", "FAMU puts 14 projects on its wishlist for Legislature", "Jefferson County wants money for construction, repairs", "Gulf County asks state to pay for nine projects", "Water management a high priority for Franklin County" and "New state prison puts strain on Live Oak wastewater treatment plant".
The other Allen
"Judge Michael Allen faces new charges of making false statements in the judicial misconduct case against him that continues to reveal a poisoned atmosphere at the 1st District Court of Appeal."
In 2006, Allen wrote a scathing concurring opinion in a case in which he questioned fellow Judge Charles Kahn's failure to recuse himself from the appeal of W.D. Childers, a legendary Florida political figure convicted of bribery as an Escambia County commissioner."Allen's misconduct trial postponed as a result of new charges".
"State university leaders say a proposal filed by a leading senator to strip power from the Board of Governors can only be viewed as retaliation for the board's attempt to set tuition rates. The board, which was created by voters via constitutional amendment in 2002 to oversee Florida's 11 public universities, met in emergency session this morning to discuss the joint resolution filed late last week by Sen. Lisa Carlton, R-Osprey. The proposal would replace the appointed Florida education commissioner with an elected position and reduce the 17-member Board of Governors to seven members, whose job it would be to 'administer the state university system as provided by law.'" "University leaders see retaliation in senator's proposal".
"Two Democrats officially qualified on Monday to run in the March 25 special election for state Legislature District 55. On Monday, the state Division of Elections declared both Charles McKenzie Jr., and Earnest Williams eligible to run in the district that includes parts of Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties. ... A third candidate likely to qualify for the race is Darryl Rouson, an attorney from St. Petersburg who is also the former head of the Pinellas chapter of the NAACP." "Two qualify for special election in District 55".
"Avoid turning youth offenders into victims"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board writes about punishing juvenile offenders "Justice with care". the editors also pen this today: "Children in chains".
"The Palm Beach County firefighters union is lining up bipartisan support for a bill that would allow counties to impose a 1-cent sales tax for fire-rescue service in exchange for a cut in property taxes. Similar tax-swap bills are being sponsored by state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, and state Rep. Shelley Vana, D-Lantana." "Firefighters union wants 1-cent sales tax".
Oh well ...
"Florida Democrats are awaiting presidential primary results in Texas and Ohio today, realizing they could have been voting, not just watching, on this potentially decisive day." "Florida Dems would vote today if primary hadn't been moved".
"Happy Birthday, Florida. Now what?"
"The Florida Legislature convenes for its annual 60-day session today, just one day after the state's 163rd birthday. On March 3, 1845, Florida was admitted to the Union, and the nation hasn't been quite the same since. Whether it was selling swampland or swaying the outcome of a presidential election, Florida has had impact, and the one constant throughout the state's history has always been a reliance on growth and development. It has been the economic life blood for the Sunshine State and a big factor that sets Florida apart from other states." "Florida's 163rd birthday a cause for celebration".
"Attorneys have begun closing arguments in the case of four members of a South Florida family accused of forcing a Haitian teen into involuntary servitude." "Closing arguments under way in Haitian slave trial".
"State Rep. Priscilla Taylor, D-West Palm Beach, on Monday said she would be interested in taking over the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation." "Taylor wants to head business agency".
The Sun Sentinel editorial board - "A strapped state budget and overwhelmed state university system now require the following, modest adjustments to Bright Futures:" "Bright Futures program needs adjustment to improve effectiveness of state university system".
"Democrat Barack Obama aims to raise at least $200,000 in Florida Tuesday as four other states hold presidential contests." "Obama supporters plan Florida fundraising 'parties'".