"Final budget deal"
"As lawmakers enter the final week of the 60-day session, they face the unpleasant job of cutting billions of dollars from the state budget. That means, among other things, chopping money from public schools and health programs for poor people." "Florida's major issues remain unresolved".
"Florida lawmakers will earn 5 percent less next year, public schools will have less money and the state's health safety net will be slashed under a final budget deal announced Sunday by legislative leaders." "Budget digs into reserves". See also "House, Senate agree on budget".
"Florida legislators starting their final workweek today still face the session's major issues, including revamping public school assessment tests, finding health-care coverage for millions of uninsured Floridians and easing the rules for building nuclear power plants."
House and Senate negotiators on Sunday put the finishing touches on a $65 billion state budget agreement and, with that out of the way, the stage is set for an action-packed end to the 60-day session."Final week of Florida Legislature's session features controversial measures".
"Action-packed"? One might have chosen a better phrase to describe the activities of lobbyists and their overfed legislators.
"With a flurry of last-minute deal-making, House and Senate negotiators finished work Sunday on an austere, $65 billion-plus state budget that includes deep cuts in education and health programs." Devil of a legislative deal: Big cuts on the way. See also "State lawmakers enter final week of legislative session".
And this - "Not all work in Legislature is serious" - of course begs the question ...
"A health coverage plan for 3.8 million uninsured Floridians has stalled amid the down-to-the-wire politics of a state lawmaking session where there has been too little money and trust to ensure swift passage." "The fate of a health insurance plan for 3.8 million Floridians uncertain.".
There is something smarmy about the corporate media - in this case the The St. Petersburg Times - proclaiming today that it is the vanguard of "the public's right to know about the workings of government." "Foes of shield law blowing smoke".
To be sure, the traditional media is pretty much all the great unwashed have to rely on, but the ink stained wretches do tend to overlook the fact that they are mere "servants"* of corporations - in this case the Times Publishing Company ("TPC") - which is yet another "for-profit company" as opposed to some sort of "some kind of altruistic venture".
As made very in the current issue of the Columbia Journalism Review, the Times is first and foremost a business:
“We are a private, for-profit company.”"Somewhere East of Eden".
This was virtually the first thing Paul Tash, the lanky, fifty-three-year-old Indiana native who heads the St. Petersburg Times, said to me last summer when we met in his office to talk about the Poynter model. It was a point he would make even more emphatically a few weeks later in a letter to The New Yorker, after the writer Steve Coll referred to the Times as a “nonprofit foundation” in a story. Clearly, Tash is irked by the lingering misconception in journalism circles that his paper is some kind of altruistic venture.
The TPC also publishes this delightful read: the Florida Trend zine, a
monthly magazine that is read by business executives, government officials, and civic leaders throughout Florida. Trend has an audited circulation of approximately 55,000 copies each month with readership of approximately 200,000. The content includes articles about Florida businesses, leadership profiles, industry reports, and a popular news round-up titled "Around the State." There is additional coverage of Florida restaurants, resorts, professions, the environment and politics.All that is well and good, but here's the kicker: Florida Trend partners with the delightful Enterprise Florida and the Florida Economic Development Council; the former which is "organization is funded, in part, by the State of Florida as well as by cash and in-kind donations from private business."
Founded in 1958, Florida Trend was the nation's first regional business magazine, a field now served by dozens of titles in states and cities across America. Trend's readers are a veritable who's who of Florida leaders -- 92% of Trend's subscribers are executives, managers, owners, and professionals. They have an average age of 55 years, average income of $320,000, and average net household worth of $2.8. million.
The latter - exists to, and operates something called "Florida Economic Developers-Political Action Committee (FED-PAC)" which claims to "work to defeat bills determined to be detrimental to our members’ interests and the business community." (.pdf link here). You can imagine what might constitute these "interests" of "the business community".
So, the next time you read something in the The St. Petersburg Times like this:
The three-step method to soaring public pensions in Florida has typically worked this way: 1) Law enforcement union lobbyists tell legislators to increase the formula; 2) Lawmakers ask "how high, " and, 3) Cities and counties get stuck with the bill.... or this:
Whether local governments can afford these lucrative retirement plans for deputies and police and firefighters at a time when private companies are shedding pension plans is a reasonable public policy question.
Gov. Jeb Bush did try to cut pensions for many state employees, but the Legislature stopped him.... or this:
Sick? Get a government job.... just remember where it is coming from, and while you might be disappointed, but you shouldn't be surprised.
Nationwide, private employers have become stingier with health plans, trimming benefits and shifting premium costs to workers.
But that's not true for local government workers in the Tampa Bay area.
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*Believe it or not, lawyers researching cases about the relationship between employees and employers still use the phrase "master and servant". It seems particularly appropriate to use this language in Florida.
That "tax swap" thing
The Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial board: "Florida's tax-policy radicals know they don't have to let facts, reason or consequences get in the way of their assaults on schools and government services. They know that as long as they craft populist tax-slashing proposals -- however reckless, however short-sighted -- they're likely to score political points in the short run. As with the mostly elderly chunk of voters they rely on to ratify those proposals, the long run doesn't matter as much. They won't be around to pay the price." Much more on the tax swap "fallacies" here: "Tax-swap fallacies".
Feeney Dems "top Florida target"
"Democrats are making Feeney their top Florida target, giving their backing to Suzanne Kosmas, 68, a former state representative from New Smyrna Beach who owns a real estate business. She knows Feeney well, having served with him in Tallahassee when he was House speaker." "Democrats try to win Feeney's House seat".
The Three Stooges
"The political landscape is shifting in three Miami-area congressional districts held by powerful Republicans, according to voter registration figures that show Democrats making sizable gains."
As of April 1, Diaz-Balart's district -- which includes parts of Miami-Dade and Broward counties -- had dropped 3,576 Republicans, but picked up 5,414 Democrats, compared to 2006. The district now has 125,726 Republicans and 106,570 Democrats."Democrats believe they have their best shot in years at defeating the Cuban-American Republican trio in a race that is likely to test their belief that voters in the largely Cuban-American districts are more worried about housing foreclosures and affordable healthcare than toppling the Castro dictatorship."
In Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart's district, which includes parts of Miami-Dade and Collier counties, registered Republicans were down 596, to 130,690, and Democrats were up 8,650, to 116,744.
And in Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's district, which includes South Dade and all of Monroe County, Republicans were down by 1,032 voters, to 127,250, while Democrats gained 7,712, to the current 113,112.
Martinez, former Miami Dade Democratic Party chairman Joe Garcia, who is challenging Mario Diaz-Balart, and Annette Taddeo, who is taking on Ros-Lehtinen, all collected more money than their rivals in the fundraising quarter that ended March 31, though they trail in cash on hand."Democratic challengers buoyed by voter trends".
''Running against incumbents is always difficult, but these are the biggest breaks a candidate can get that directly affect the outcome of an election,'' Jeff Garcia said.
Republicans note the races haven't made some rosters of competitive House matchups as rated by national political handicappers, suggesting some analysts are not yet convinced the Democratic campaigns are viable.
But Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, which keeps tabs on competitive races, said he's watching the South Florida contests -- particularly the race between Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Martinez.
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Lawmakers made the right move last week to draw upon reserves and reduce cuts to services for elderly, disabled and critically ill Floridians." "It made sense for legislators to tap into reserves for certain programs".
Leasing to ourselves
The Tampa Tribune editorial board argues that "a lease deal proposed by Sen. Dan Webster seems to benefit the state in two ways. He suggests leasing Alligator Alley to the $2.3 billion Lawton Chiles Endowment Fund. The state would get a lump sum, say $500 million, to spend on much-needed transportation projects. The endowment fund would get a steady stream of toll revenue, perhaps bringing a better return than could be safely found elsewhere." "Milking Cash From Alligator Alley".
"State legislators are pushing a rewrite of Florida's growth laws that would let biotechnology projects such as the Burnham Institute and citrus and sugar growers expand their business operations with less state regulation."
"Florida legislators are grinding away on the overhaul aimed at making it harder for local governments to change the growth plans they are required by law to create -- and easier for developers to build in urban cores where the price of expanding roadways makes it more expensive." "New growth laws would slacken regulation for biotech, citrus, sugar projects".
The more things change ...
... the more they stay the same: More than twenty (20) years ago, the National Labor Relations Board issued this decision, concerning "City Cab Company of Orlando, Inc. Yellow Cab Company of Orlando, Inc. d/b/a Yellow Cab Company".
Today we read that "about 100 cab drivers in Orlando are set to go on strike and rally for a bigger share of the city's tourist trade." "Orlando cab drivers plan strike, rally".
As before, the employer is an entity called "Mears Transportation Group".
The session ain't over yet
"Florida ranks among the top states for proposing immigration-related bills. But the good news is that to this point in the session, most of those bills have stalled." "It doesn't make sense for Florida and its cities to try to legislate immigration".
"Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, 46 years removed from Sagua la Grande, a port city on Cuba's northern coast, remains an adamant supporter of the Bush administration's hard-nosed policy toward his homeland." "Standing firm on Cuba, Martinez wants embargo until island is free".
And ... yes, the article does refer to "Operation Peter Pan".
"Though the Senate passed its 'academic freedom' [to teach creationism] bill Wednesday, the House has not yet voted on its version, which is quite different. The Senate rejected an amendment that would have made its bill identical to the House's." "'Freedom' bill yet to see a final vote".
"South Florida lawmakers' voices often go unheard or are at odds with one another, leaving the state's largest school districts with little policy clout." "S. Florida lawmakers losing clout".
"Eight quarter-horse tracks"?
"Gambling proponents think they have a great way to tap poker's popularity in Florida: Bring back quarter-horse racing by building tracks that also include card rooms. ... Plans for eight quarter-horse tracks -- four of them in Central Florida -- are in the works. But it's not a done deal yet." "Will lust for poker bring back quarter-horse races in Florida?".
Whose "clean hands" are we talkin' about here?
"While Crotzer got reparations two years after being released from prison, it took a quarter-century for two innocent black men, Freddie Pitts and Wilbert Lee, to receive compensation for their 12 years in prison, nine spent on Death Row."
"I think there's an appetite to do a better job," said Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, who sponsored the bill to automatically compensate the wrongfully incarcerated. "Make it a little less political, not as much about what lobbyist you have and more about the substance of the claim.""Process for compensating falsely imprisoned might change".
Bogdanoff's bill is controversial. Critics decry a "clean hands" provision that was inserted to win Republican support. It would prohibit anyone convicted of a prior felony from receiving the automatic reparations — a restriction that would ban all but two of the nine Floridians released from prison because of DNA evidence.
The clean hands provision is necessary to prevent someone with a "five-page rap sheet" from becoming automatically entitled to state compensation, Bogdanoff said.
It would exclude Lauderhill's Larry Bostic — the 208th person nationwide to be vindicated by DNA evidence — from getting money. Before his 1988 arrest for a rape and an armed robbery he did not commit, Bostic had convictions for theft, cocaine possession and burglary. He then spent 19 years behind bars before DNA evidence proved he was innocent of the rape and robbery — [a mere] 13 days before his scheduled release last fall.
That massive parents of autistic kids lobby
On one hand you have the massive parents of autistic kids lobby, and on the other you have "the powerful insurance industry", which (of course) "contends that any health coverage mandate raises costs by as much as 30 percent." "Bills would increase autism therapy aid".
Why pick 30 percent Why not a gazillion percent?
The best they could do?
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "Before Gov. Crist's election and his appointment of Bob Butterworth as DCF secretary, there was no political will or integrity from those in power even to acknowledge the jury's verdict or Marissa's suffering. The settlement - especially this year - is as close to justice as Marissa may ever get. ... [It was only] two-thirds of the $26.8 million a Palm Beach County jury in 2005 ordered the Department of Children and Families to pay. That's also the amount special masters for the House and Senate this month supported" "It isn't the $26 million, but it will help Marissa".
Remember how it took "It took Minouche Noel seven years of coming to Tallahassee to get her $8.5 million settlement in 2007 — nearly 20 years after a Broward doctor at a defunct state clinic crippled her during unnecessary back surgery.".
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Here's something you haven't heard a lot lately — the Legislature did something smart with money, something that will benefit many people ... the Florida Department of Transportation is being asked to sell advertising on trucks and uniforms worn by Road Ranger drivers." "FLASH: Legislators actually spend money wisely".
"The Bush administration wants to enlist the country's 80 million recreational boaters to help reduce the chances that a small boat could deliver a nuclear or radiological bomb somewhere along the country's 95,000 miles of coastline and inland waterways." "Bush to ask boaters to be terror lookouts".
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Not only is the Florida Legislature determined to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for most specialty plates. Now, they are entering the world of 'totally inappropriate' plates."
There's no other phrase to describe the "I Believe" plate, with a design that includes a Christian cross and stained glass window. Sponsored by state Rep. Edward Bullard, D-Miami, the proposed plate not only thoroughly demolishes the church-state wall, but is absolutely guaranteed to get Florida involved in a costly legal battle. If passed — let us pray it isn't — the plate would be the first of it's kind in the country."Let's pray idea for 'I Believe' license plate fails".
The latest: "Senate passes moratorium on specialty license plates".
What's the rush, Gail?
"Taxpayers are paying for a set of campaign-style fliers that Florida Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, is hustling to mail before the end of this week, when she officially becomes a congressional candidate and can no longer use state House cash." "Legislative fliers raise red flag as campaign looms".
"Expected to fail"
"For the second year, crane company owners, consultants and inspectors have been pushing the Florida Legislature to pass a bill establishing training standards and certification procedures for crane operators, their loaders — also called riggers — and those who direct the crane by radio or hand signal. It's expected to fail.""Sun-Sentinel: Bill that would set training standards for crane operators expected to fail".