"Voters in November can undo a court ruling that struck down a school voucher program. They'll also be able to require schools to spend at least 65 percent of their budgets in the classroom as part of the same proposed constitutional amendment. ... The school proposal is one of seven amendments the panel has put on the ballot. They include a proposal to trade a massive property tax cut for potentially raising and broadening the state's sales tax." "Tax panel puts school voucher proposal on ballot".
"Come November, Florida voters will decide if they want to codify in the state Constitution a dramatic change in the way public schools are funded." "Tax-swap plan will be on Florida ballot".
- "Voters will likely still get a chance in November to eliminate most school property taxes in favor of a higher sales tax under a plan that comes up for a final vote before a powerful commission today." "Florida tax swap plan to come up for vote".
- "A constitutional amendment that could allow public dollars for private schools appears headed for the Nov. 4 ballot. A powerful tax commission, which fell one vote short of adopting the initiative April 4, agreed Thursday to reconsider the proposal after one of the dissenting commissioners says he now supports the plan." "Voucher amendment cleared to make November ballot". See also "Fla. tax panel puts school voucher, spending items on ballot".
Passing the buck
"Florida voters will decide in November on a ballot measure that would cut property taxes across the board by an average of 25 percent, or $9.5 billion, while directing state legislators to replace the revenue by raising sales and other taxes." "Florida voters to decide whether to cut property taxes, hike sales tax". See also "Voters will decide yet another school property-tax plan", "Tax reform to be put to vote in Florida", "Sales Tax Increase Will Appear On November Ballot", "Tax-swap plan will be on Florida ballot", "Voters will decide yet another school property-tax plan" and "Voters will get say on tax cut".
Is everyone named 'Crist' an idiot ... "or just these two?" Many things can be said about Vic, few of them nice. But this piece from The Buzz speaks volumes about the man: "Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, is among the biggest campaign spenders despite being unopposed for re-election. He has spent more than $100,000 since 2003, despite no hint of opposition.
"Sen. Victor Crist, the Tampa Republican who oversees state spending for courts and criminal justice, is firing back at circuit judges who have complained about the impact of budget cuts and have threatened to close their courtrooms to save money. At a public hearing Thursday, Crist delivered a lengthy speech that accused judges of engaging in 'spin' to protect their own hides." "Sen. Crist fires back at judges".
... When we asked Sen. Crist, 'Who is Emmy Fleeting?,' the person to whom he paid nearly $20,000 in campaign money, we neglected to be be more specific with our question. He told us she was his campaign manager handling his voter lists, fundraising and other political activity.
... we can add another nugget: She also is Victor Crist's sister, and her husband, Mark Fleeting, earned his $2,300 from working on his brother-in-law's campaign computers. In other words, Victor Crist is paying more than $20,000 in campaign money to family members who have no opponent to fend off." "Victor Crist's Sister".
Horse trading "bad ideas"?
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "With barely a week left in the legislative session, one big question is what the two leaders might do with their hole cards."
Senate President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, wants a constitutional amendment that would rewrite education policy. House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, wants a constitutional amendment that would further cut property taxes. Both amendments would go before voters in November. Both are bad ideas. But would both men be willing to trade one for the other?"If Pruitt, Rubio trade, take these ideas off table".
The education proposal has passed the Senate but hasn't moved in the House. The tax cut, which would limit property tax collections to 1.35 percent of a property's assessed value, passed the House on Wednesday but has passed only one committee in the Senate. The president and speaker can produce a vote on any bill. Every senator and representative understands how the leaders feel about these two bills.
Any deal, though, would be the worst kind of legislating. Though Sen. Pruitt and Rep. Rubio are in the final year of their leadership positions, the best thing that they could do for the state would be to stick these proposals in a drawer. ...
The word is that Sen. Pruitt wants no more discussion about taxes this year. If his resistance kills both amendments, that would be a good deal for Florida.
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "The Florida House, it seems, never met a tax reduction idea it didn't like — even a bad one [like the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) plan]. ... The good news is that Florida Senate President Ken Pruitt, hardly a tax-and-spend liberal, has no appetite for advancing this proposal to the ballot. Mr. Pruitt says additional tax cutting amendments are premature just now. Our new Amendment 1, passed Jan. 29 and designed to hold the line on property taxes, should be given time to work, he said." "Editorial: House's cap plan deserves to die".
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "A month after the Florida Senate obliged its perturbed president by voting to abolish the university system Board of Governors, the House has maintained steady radio silence. That could mean Speaker Marco Rubio won't be party to a political grudge against higher education, or it could mean he's holding trade bait. History supports the latter assumption, but universities deserve the former." "Attack on universities stalls".
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "The state, Pinellas County and the city of Oldsmar paid millions of dollars in incentives to persuade the Nielsen Co. to locate in Oldsmar and create hundreds of new, high-wage jobs. Now that investment is turning sour as Nielsen, a media and marketing research company, outsources many of those jobs to a company in India and lays off its local workers." Say that again?:
Nielsen, a media and marketing research company [that had been paid millions of dollars in public dollars as incentives], outsources many of those jobs to a company in India and lays off its local workers."Taxpayers on hook for unkept promises".
I want somma that corporate welfare
"Seeking to halt the state Department of Transportation's practice of giving losing bidders hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Senate on Thursday stripped from its bill permission for the agency to do so. The Palm Beach Post reported Thursday that the department sought the authority it lacked for five years in giving away stipends to losing bidders. An agency official said the $100,000 to $200,000 awards attracted more bidders and ideas." "Senate strips stipends for losing bids".
"A Senate floor vote on a bill requiring ultrasounds before all Florida abortions - and a signature by the woman to pass on viewing the image - was postponed Thursday with a razor-thin tally likely for today." "Ultrasound requirement splits Senate". The chamber will likely take up the issue Monday." "Senate to debate ultrasound bill".
"The State Board of Administration did not have the proper federal credentials to purchase nearly one of every three securities analyzed in an audit obtained Thursday by The Palm Beach Post." "Botched investments broke federal rules".
"The height of absurdity"
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "Florida lawmakers are driving to the height of absurdity in trying to cash in on state roads at taxpayers' expense. Witness the idea that Senate Majority Leader Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden, wants to stick in the mammoth transportation bill: Have the state lease Alligator Alley to itself." "Resist 'Cash-Cow Alley'".
"Power Trumps Research"
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Byrd acolyte, Sen. Ronda Storms, championed the cause on his behalf. Convinced that USF only wants to get its hands on Byrd center funds, she proposed eliminating all state funding for Alzheimer's research. In dramatic fashion, she questioned whether USF would still want a bride who came with no dowry. But the Senate rejected her amendment, 39 to 1. Yet a week later, after Byrd appealed to Rubio to stop the merger, both houses have fallen in line with her view." "Personal Power Trumps Research At Byrd Alzheimer's Center".
Christian license plate
"The Florida Legislature is considering a specialty plate with a design that includes a Christian cross, a stained-glass window and the words 'I Believe.' ... If the plate is approved, Florida would become the first state to have a license plate featuring a religious symbol that's not part of a college logo. Approval would almost certainly face a court challenge." "Florida lawmakers debate offering a Christian license plate".
CSX may get the cash
"A $650-million plan to run commuter trains in Orlando narrowly survived a fractious Florida House vote Thursday. Lawmakers voted 64-54 against an amendment by Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, that would have stripped language providing immunity from negligence lawsuits for CSX railroad when it uses the commuter line for freight travel." "Orlando commuter train bill survives House vote". See also "Face-off nears on commuter rail".
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Most everyone wants to see Orlando develop a proposed commuter-rail system that would ease congestion in Central Florida. There's just one hitch: Taxpayers want the best possible deal for the hundreds of millions of dollars the state wants to spend." "Webster's Train Deal Plays Loose With Florida's Tax Dollars".
Here's an idea: hire only union journeyman crane operators
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "The choice before lawmakers in Tallahassee, however, is a rather unsatisfying one. Either an imperfect law that at least provides minimum standards that construction crane operators must follow, or have no regulation for crane operators anywhere in Florida except Miami-Dade." "Isn't some protection better than NO protection?".
The Peoples' Republic of Sarasota
"In case anyone confuses Sarasota with San Francisco, House lawmakers are prepared to act. No place in Florida would be able to ban the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag — as San Francisco did last year — until at least February 2010 under a proposal heading for debate today." "Plastic bags could find unlikely pal in Florida recycling proposals".
"As part of a massive transportation bill, Florida lawmakers have tucked in a provision that would jack up rates on the turnpike by 25 percent starting July 1. The toll hike would also apply to the Sawgrass Expressway in Broward County. ... The toll hike was proposed by Senate Majority Leader Dan Webster, a Winter Garden Republican who said tolls are a 'user fee.'" "25 percent toll hike sought on turnpike".
Not the same old song
"After laundering the lyrics to delete racially offensive terms like 'darkeys,' the Florida Senate voted Thursday to retain the tune familiarly known as Swanee River as the official state song, and also adopted much newer work by a Broward music teacher as the state anthem." "Florida Senate launders lyrics of state song Swanee River". See also "Florida Senate recognizes new state anthem" and "Compromise: Have 2 state songs".
Sowing "confusion and misinformation"
Update: "A bill that would ensure teachers are not punished for challenging evolution in the classroom was debated Friday in the Florida House but amended to include more stringent language that would mandate alternate views to evolution be taught." "House takes up Senate evolution bill"
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "With newly passed science standards that require the teaching of evolution, Florida is finally on track to give its young people a solid educational grounding for careers in biology and medical science. Not so fast, says state Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico. Because evolution, the scientific theory that undergirds modern biological science, conflicts with her religious beliefs, Storms is willing to sow confusion and misinformation in science classes around the state." "Don't mix science, religion".
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Another Tallahassee tradition surfaced in the Senate this week with the passage of a bill requiring insurance companies to cover treatment for children with autism."
Senate Minority Leader Steve Geller of Hallandale Beach once said it's customary for the Legislature to give long-time senior lawmakers a pet-project win during their last year in office."Sen. Geller's Gift To Florida".
And so it was on Wednesday, when the Senate passed Geller's autism bill, then named the legislation after him.
The term-limited senator deserved the honor, which brought tears to his eyes. He spent nearly a decade convincing his colleagues to pass the legislation, only to be beaten back time and again by the insurance industry, which argued, typically, that the measure would force premiums higher.
"The recent death of an 86-year-old Largo woman has prompted federal legislation to help states set up "Silver Alert" systems for finding missing senior citizens." "Death prompts 'Silver Alert' bill".
Florida's booming economy: "a hub of human smuggling operations"
"Because Florida has no state statute outlawing human smuggling, Martin County Sheriff's Officials had to release a suspected smuggler early last summer, officials there said. To prevent that from happening again in a state that is a hub of human smuggling operations, state Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, is pushing a bill that would create such a law." "Bill to outlaw human smuggling heads to Florida House".
Those silly tax obligations
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Buddy Johnson has been in public life for years as both a state legislator and Hillsborough's elections supervisor. He knows the ropes. Elected officials are expected to set an example, to behave in a way that does not embarrass themselves or their constituents. When they make mistakes, they need to be candid and quickly make amends. So how is it, then, that Johnson hasn't seen fit to pay his property taxes on time?" "Johnson's Failures Tax Constituents".
Lobbyists get a second chance
"Uber-lobbyist Ron Book said on Thursday he was confident that a strict gift ban lawmakers enacted in 2005 will be overturned after a federal appeals court sent the case back to the Florida Supreme Court. ... The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals punted Wednesday, kicking Book's legal challenge of the gift ban back to the Florida Supreme Court. Book and Brevard County lobbyist Guy Spearman challenged the law, which also requires that lobbyists disclose the money they are paid by their clients, on four grounds."
The Atlanta court ruled that the law is not too vague under the U.S. Constitution, but said the other three challenges should best be decided by the Florida Supreme Court."U.S. appeals court sends gift-ban case back to supreme court".
"Having reviewed all the arguments and the case law, we conclude that the law in Florida is not sufficiently established for us to determine with confidence whether the act is unconstitutional under the state's constitution," the court wrote.
Dumb answer to ...
... a good question: "How do you justify paying state employees such small salaries and at the same time expect high-quality work from them?" A B.S. answer from Charlie about part-time employees:
Our budget recommendation was to increase salaries for state employees. We're trying to do that and give $1,000 bonuses for some. But, in addition, our health insurance plan would provide coverage for the state's part-time workers, [giving them] a much more economical opportunity to buy health coverage. We've got over 9,000 part-time employees, 171,000 full-time employees. The part-time employees have no coverage through the state. It's important to this individual questioner that they realize part of what we're trying to do in addition to our budget recommendations is this health insurance package that gives them the opportunity to buy health coverage for potentially as low as $100 a month."Ask the Governor: Pay raises, broader health coverage proposed for state workers" (bracketing original).
A very "small crowd"
"Vice President Dick Cheney says pulling troops out of Iraq too soon will put the United States at even greater risk to terrorism. Cheney spoke to a small crowd near Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle on Friday." "Cheney defends Iraq war at fundraiser in Florida Panhandle".
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Higher water rates a sign of the times, and the future". See also The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Sparse attendance at regional water summit speaks to a larger problem".
"Elderly man drives through airport security and onto runway". Meanwhile, "Hollywood has made a comedy that is a 'reaction to post-9/11 paranoia.' The movie hits theaters Friday." "Crude comedy takes on post-9/11 policy".
No word as to whether Alex Acosta will play himself in the film. More: "Another Bushco lapdog".
Florida striving for relevance
Adam C. Smith: "Nearly 1.75-million Democrats voted in Florida's officially meaningless presidential primary, and it remains to be seen whether Florida will send any delegates to the national convention. But in this Twilight Zone of a campaign, a more cosmic question arises: Do the Florida votes actually exist?"
In Barack Obama world the answer is no. Clinton's 295,000-vote victory margin in Florida is basically imaginary. The candidates chose not to campaign in the state, the argument goes, so the votes should be purged from the minds of any uncommitted superdelegate."What are Florida's votes— real, virtual or imaginary?".
On planet Hillary Clinton, those Florida votes are as real as the White House itself. We cannot pretend a record turnout of voters never happened.
This Florida riddle gained importance when Clinton beat Obama on Tuesday in Pennsylvania, another big swing state.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Yes, there really is history in Broward".
"An outhouse of goobers who make Gomer Pyle look like George Bernard Shaw "
Daniel Ruth: "Never missing an opportunity to demonstrate that it is populated by an outhouse of goobers who make Gomer Pyle look like George Bernard Shaw, the Florida Senate took time out late last week to debate one of the most pressing social issues of our time - faux bull testicles." "Budget? Bull! Pols Go Mad Over Gonads".
"Here is how it works in Florida"
Troxler yesterday: "Here is how it works in Florida:"
If enough citizens sign a petition, they can put a proposed amendment to the state Constitution on the ballot.The Florida
The Constitution says so.
Here is the tricky part. The rules do not say that only "good" people get to petition, or only "smart" people, or only people that you or I like.
Nope. In fact, the chances are excellent that sooner or later, an idea that you personally cannot stand will reach the Florida ballot. It happens to me all the time.
Legislature business community couldn't handle that (after all, it conflicts with their purchase of the Florida Legislature), so they've passes a host of restrictions:
But one idea that the Legislature passed last year went too far — and on Wednesday, a state court struck it down."Power to the people, right on, court says".
The Legislature created a new process in which citizens could change their mind and revoke their signatures.
As predicted, that change in the law created a whole new cottage industry. Groups fighting petitions got a second bite at the apple — they could contact petition signers and try to scare or fool them into filling out a revocation form.
You might remember the funniest example, concerning the Hometown Democracy movement, which sought to limit growth. Its opponents sent out a letter warning voters that the amendment would give too much power to a suspicious, mysterious group known as "electors."
Of course, "electors" simply means "voters." It was a stupid trick to fool people.
"The state Senate on Thursday passed a law encouraging certification of emergency dispatchers after being moved by the story of Denise Amber Lee, who was kidnapped and killed in Charlotte County four months ago." "Emergency dispatcher certification approved".
Yesterday's news and punditry
- The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "It is not exactly earth-shattering reform in Tallahassee that is taking place with the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test." "FCAT changes are a start, at least.".
- "House OKs $18 million for brain-damaged girl".
- "As Marco Rubio's time as House speaker dwindles, he finds himself double-teamed by the Senate and Gov. Charlie Crist. Last weekend, he decided to vent." "Rubio lashes out as stressful term winds down".
- "Three months after Gov. Charlie Crist suggested using reserves to stave off health care cuts, lawmakers agreed Wednesday to spend $300-million to preserve two programs serving more than 40,000 sick and disabled people." "Lawmakers agree to tap Florida reserves". See also "Lawmakers hit reserves to salvage 2 health programs for the critically ill and elderly from budget cuts".
- "Consumers could better compare prices for 150 different hospital procedures under a bill likely to be heard Thursday by the Florida Senate." "Bill seeks to clarify medical services pricing".
- "A Tampa Bay Republican's controversial evolution bill squeaked out of the Florida Senate Wednesday, overcoming the defection of five Republicans who say Sen. Ronda Storms' proposal ushers religion into public classrooms." "Legislative roundup: Sen. Storms evolution bill moves on".
- Mike Thomas: "Guns at work won't mean office rampages".
- "Dunedin mayor says he'll challenge Rep. Young".
- "The former producer of the popular Gangstas-N-Thugs series says new anti-gang legislation could unfairly target videos that are not connected with gangs." "Ex-producer of 'Gangstas' calls anti-gang bill unfair".
- No nutz: "Senate approves bill fining truck displays".
- "A Senate floor vote on a bill requiring ultrasounds before all Florida abortions - and a signature by the woman to pass on viewing the image - was postponed Thursday with a razor-thin tally likely for today. But some senators said they still held out hope that the bill could be tweaked so there could be more of a consensus on a measure that is teetering between passing and failing." "Ultrasound requirement splits Senate".
- "Guidelines for compensating those who have been wrongfully imprisoned gained full Senate approval Wednesday, although some members described it as a starting point they hope to improve later." "Senators approve repaying innocents".
- "Republican House leaders said their action Wednesday reflected the will of the people. Democrats called it something else: political pandering. The House plans, approved on party-line votes, would cap state and local government revenues and limit property taxes to 1.35 percent of assessed values -- cuts that would amount to billions of dollars. But they stand next to no chance in the Senate." "House lobs property-tax cuts at unwilling Senate".