Originally posted online at 10:31 PM last night and last updated 3:46 AM this morning, The St. Petersburg Timesreports that the state Taxation and Budget Reform Commission
narrowly and surprisingly rejected a plan to expand school vouchers. Then they turned their attention to the revenue cap, whose sponsor had stripped it bare in an attempt to save it. That led to a free-for-all of late amendments that either strengthened or weaken the main proposal."Panel delays tax cap vote". More on the still pending revenue cap proposal from The South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
So amid the confusion, Bense called a timeout.
He scheduled another meeting for April 14 ...
Friday's 10-hour meeting showed how complicated the government process can be, with a dizzying array of proposals as diverse as school vouchers (which, in a surprise twist, failed) and a revenue cap (which was debated for hours but not voted on). [the cap would set a ceiling on state, city, county revenue]
Confusion and jockeying over the cap — including behind-the-scenes lobbying by former Gov. Jeb Bush — made clear that the issue needed more work before a vote.
The long-awaited vote on a proposal to set a ceiling on state, city, county and special taxing district revenue was delayed because of the many amendments that commissioners proposed.Separately, a couple of amendments were approved, "one would give voters the opportunity to raise local sales taxes to boost community college funding. The other would force tax collectors to assess land set aside for conservation based on its current use — not on how it could be developed, such as for housing." "State tax panel's vote falls short of putting school vouchers on ballot". More: "Commission strikes down use of taxes for tuition vouchers, postpones tax cap", "School voucher plan fails ballot-qualification vote", "Voucher amendment fails, commission again delays revenue cap" and "Panel Rejects Voucher Plan".
The panel approved one suggested change in wording that would require the Legislature to set the caps on government revenue at all levels. The commission deleted a clause that would have required any increase in local taxes to be approved first by voters. But all that could be changed again at the commission's next meeting April 14.
It takes 17 votes from the 25-member commission to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot. If 60 percent of Floridians voting agree, the change becomes law.
Last week, the commission agreed to let voters decide whether to remove the state constitution's ban on state funds being used to aid religious institutions.
Sometimes only ad hominem will do
Idiot: "House Speaker Marco Rubio has publicly questioned the state's role in environmental regulation, even hinting recently that the Department of Environmental Protection could be abolished."
RPOF voter suppression scheme gets green light
"Florida temporarily can enforce a law that disqualifies any voter registration where the Social Security or driver's license number on the application can't be matched with government databases, an appeals court ruled."
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta on Thursday said a lower court shouldn't have ordered a temporary injunction in December that prevented Florida from enforcing an anti-fraud law that dismissed applications when matches couldn't be made."State wins case over voting disqualification".
Plaintiffs sued in September, arguing the law could easily and unfairly exclude people based on simple mistakes. For example, if someone got their driver's license number wrong by one digit, they could be prevented from registering.
"Crist and his fellow Republican lawmakers would rather discuss just about anything else. A mind-set grips the Capitol that cutting spending is the only way to manage an epic downturn in revenue, 'no matter the consequences,' as one veteran lobbyist put it this week." "Florida legislators are driven by a fear of taxes".
We got no stinkin' TB in our gated communities
RPOFers apparently think [sic] that TB is only for poor people that don't vote: "House Republican leaders want to shut down A.G. Holley State Hospital in Lantana by the end of the year, despite the state Department of Health's fears that moving its tuberculosis patients could jeopardize public safety." "Lantana center for TB faces ax".
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "Republicans usually are thought of as the preferred party of religious true believers. But it is the Democrats who have embraced the certainty of miracles." The hullabaloo over the supposed delegate agreement is premature because
in truth no agreement has been reached on seating Florida's delegates. The joint statement says only that they are "committed to doing everything we can" to get Florida's wayward delegates seated."Loaves, fishes, delegates".
Moreover, it is clear that Dr. Dean and Ms. Thurman don't think that accomplishing this task is their responsibility, even though the DNC precipitated the crisis by bouncing Florida's delegates. Real responsibility for reconciliation, it turns out, is left to the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
So, the agreement between the national and state party officials accomplishes exactly ... nothing.
Sen. Clinton, who won Florida but is behind nationally, wants the delegates. Sen. Obama would seat them only if doing so still would leave him ahead. To seat them under any other circumstances would require either Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama to ignore self-interest.
As soon as that happens, Florida can toast victory - with wine created from water.
"A key national Republican Party committee gave preliminary approval to a 2012 primary schedule that puts big states including Florida, later in the year." "Proposal For 2012 GOP Primary Puts Big States Last".
They're at it yet again
The supplicant scolds on the The Orlando Sentinel editorial board have had a "eureka!" moment - they breathlessly report that they have learned, via a high hifalutin "Orlando Sentinel investigation", that workers are more likely to call in sick on Friday's and Mondays. Duh? Here's the rub: the editors - in their unceasing effort to let their corporate (slumlord) master know that they are good little workers who would never do anything to offend the owners, take the issue on with, of all people ... teachers - "It's irresponsible and costly for teachers to take sick days when they are well".
Do we need to remind "our friends" on the Sentinel editorial board about the sorry state of Florida teacher morale? Apparently we do. Here are a couple helpers: "Florida teacher salaries continue to lag behind the national average. Most teachers have no hope of being able to afford a single-family home." "Teacher: 'Pay me what the future is worth'".
Florida teacher enjoys yet another Friday sick day at her beach house
And this: "Florida is behind almost every other state in the nation when it comes to education spending." "Schools still rank near the bottom".
A couple of weeks ago The St. Petersburg Times editorial board reminded readers "that Florida teachers are paid, on average, $5,700 below the national average."
Sure, no worker should play hooky. But don't the Sentinel editors have bigger, much bigger fish to fry? Here's a suggestion, why no editorialize unmercifully on that "$5,700 below the national average", as opposed to alleged seek leave abuse by teachers and "Fattening Up: Local and state governments are overly generous to employees".
If you're interested here's some of our previous commentary on the Sentinel swells: "Orlando Sentinel embarrasses itself" and "The Orlando Sentinel editors are at it again".
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "House leaders are casting their decision to delete the entire $500-million allocation for Florida Forever land-buying and Everglades cleanup as an agonizing choice in a difficult budget year. But state revenue has dropped by 7 percent, not 100 percent, which suggests that belt-tightening is not the only motivation."
The Senate is unlikely to agree to the House's radical approach on the Everglades and land conservation. But the House Republican proposal should not be easily forgotten. It speaks to an ideological opportunism and an environmental hostility that voters might want to remember in the fall."House GOP bails on Glades cleanup". The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "The Legislature should kill a proposal that would eliminate the total Everglades restoration budget of $400 million as part of statewide spending reductions, and the state's congressional delegation should back off its threats."
The suggestion to slash Everglades and Florida Forever money to nothing came from a House committee chaired by Rep. Stan Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, who has said that the choice is between "programs we love" and providing money for "critical services for our vulnerable citizens and seniors." Rep. Mayfield and his aides, who did not return a phone call, have characterized the choices poorly. Money for the Everglades and "critical services" for children and seniors is on one side; millions in tax incentives that the Legislature should cut even if special interests object are on the other."Wrong time to become Everglades deadbeats".
Florida's congressional delegation sent a threatening letter to state House Speaker Marco Rubio and other legislative leaders, warning that cutting state money for Everglades cleanup could "undermine" the state's ability to get federal money now and in the future. After seven years of stalling, Congress finally passed a water projects bill last fall, and only now has begun to authorize money for Everglades projects, including the Indian River Lagoon Restoration Plan in Martin County. As one Everglades supporter notes, the letter is "like a deadbeat dad threatening a responsible mother, telling her not to quit her job if she ever hopes to receive child support."
More raw editorial from the The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Keeping America's Wetlands Safe".
No good hands
"The state is allowed to suspend Allstate Insurance Co. and nine affiliates from selling any new policies in Florida, a state appeals court ruled Friday." "Allstate can be barred, court rules". See also "Appeals court upholds state's suspension of Allstate companies" and "Ruling: State can ban Allstate".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Innocent people sent to prison shouldn't have to fight in Legislature".
Uh ... wasn't Siplin was exonerated ... ?
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "State Sen. Gary Siplin has proven he's as sleazy as authorities thought when they prosecuted him two years ago. The Orlando Democrat was convicted of felony grand theft in 2006 before the Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed the conviction late last year." "Another Outrage Courtesy Of Gary Siplin".
Compare that with the The Tampa Tribune's polite ode to the Poe the other day: "It may be tempting to dismiss Bill Poe as another influential executive who sought to scam the system and the public. But his past should count for something. Bill Poe deserves a chance to make his case."
One wonders how many cocktails the editors and Mr. Poe have shared together over the years.
One does not wonder how many times the Trib editors have shared quality time with Mr. Siplin.
For more on Mister Poe, see our comments the other day our admittedly over the top "Enough with the hard charging, risk taking, job creating, entrepreneurial crap" (scroll down).
Bee "Colony Collapse Disorder"
Jamie Ellis, a University of Florida assistant professor of entomology, "is collaborating with the U.S. and Florida agriculture departments on about 20 bee-related research projects, said researchers are considering roughly a dozen major possibilities for the cause of the disorder." "Researchers buzzing over what's causing collapses of bee colonies".
90% of editors polled believe Jebbie is fab
"In the poll, 81 percent of respondents said they thought "things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track," up from 69 percent a year ago and 35 percent in early 2002." "American dissatisfaction hits new high, poll finds".
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Florida, and Washington, have work to do to prepare state for hurricane season".
"To stay open as Planned Parenthood of South Palm Beach and Broward Counties, the ailing local group will have to persuade its parent agency to keep it. Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc. will drop the local agency, based in Boca Raton, within a month unless it appeals the decision, federation officials told the group this week." "Planned Parenthood may drop Boca-based affiliate".
One "In Florida's booming prison economy there are winners and losers. Inmates face financial ruin and state taxpayers lose, too - about $17,000 per year, per inmate. Prison entrepreneurs, for whom each inmate is a government-subsidized business opportunity, are the big winners." "Derail the Florida prison gravy train".
Fraser mentions this recently published tome, "Prison Profiteers: Who Makes Money from Mass Incarceration". Publishers Weekly describes the book as allowing readers to
follow the money to an astonishing constellation of prison administrators and politicians working in collusion with private parties to maximize profits at the expense of taxpayers, community health and, of course, the 2.3 million inmates nationwide. The overarching narrative, laid out clearly in the opening article by Judy Greene, finds a system increasingly dominated by select, minimally accountable private companies for whom profitability depends on the promise of more and longer convictions. As such, investment in treatment programs, education and family assistance is diverted to organizations delivering substandard food and "health care" that allows hepatitis C to reach levels one doctor compares to "the Dark Ages with the plague"; corruption runs all the way down to prison phone contracts. Cruelty and administrative stupidity come in many forms, claim the authors; guards earning $5.77 per hour beat the young inmates of a Louisiana juvenile facility while abuse schemes and political back-scratching trump efforts to police them, as evidenced by the growth of industry tradeshows and companies (such as International Taser). This is lucid, eye-opening reading for anyone interested in American justice.That sounds so ... so ... Florida.
PAC ... What PAC?
"A Martin County commissioner's trial on elections violation charges has been put on hold while a court sorts out whether the state Elections Commission had the authority to investigate Commissioner Susan Valliere and her husband. ... Former County Commissioner Donna Melzer last year accused the Vallieres of violating elections laws using a political action committee run by Jim Valliere. Melzer said the PAC bought signs and paid other services that violated the $500 limit on in-kind donations for the candidates. The Vallieres have contended that they did nothing wrong and the commissioner did not know the activities of her husband's PAC." "Martin commissioner's trial on election charges postponed".
A tip for our ink stained wretches:Technically, there is no such thing as a "PAC" within the meaning of Florida election law. Florida law recognizes "PCs" and "CCEs", "Political Committees" and "Committees of Continuous Existence" respectively. "Political Action Committees", or "PACs", relate to federal election law.
Please, no swiftboating
"In Jacksonville, McCain revisits his military roots".
What a bargain!
I want somma that: "Florida man who was wrongly imprisoned for 24 years awarded $1.25M" ("in prison, he was stabbed, and his mother -- who encouraged him not to give up -- died. He couldn't get out to be with her as she passed or go to her funeral.")
Seriously, there is something so painfully wrong about this picture. I would prefer seeing a picture of the "five victims [who] made in-court identifications of Crotzer" apologizing for destroying an innocent man's life. It would also to be interesting to hear from the persecutors who prepped these "victims" for trial and made sure their testimony fit the theory; one also wonders about the police officers who were involved in the initial identifications.
We can only thank God this wasn't a Capital offense; then again, we all know - because we have been so told - that Florida has never executed an innocent person.
"Alarming increase in the number of crimes involving guns"
"The rate of serious crimes in Florida edged up in 2007 after years of declines, with a particularly alarming increase in the number of crimes involving guns." "Report: serious crime a bit higher in Florida in 2007".
From the "values" crowd
"House Healthcare Chairman Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, said the potential DCF cuts are deeper than anyone anticipated earlier this year. But overall, the dwindling tax revenue could force roughly $1 billion in cuts from health and human-services programs." "Stipends for foster kids among proposed budget cuts".
"Turning opportunity into opportunism"
DThe Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial board writes that "the Legislature's attempt to revamp the state's energy laws is turning opportunity into opportunism. The Legislature is using the green-economy mantle to make proposals it couldn't have made before -- build nuclear plants with fewer regulations and stretch high-power electric lines across conservation lands, for example, in the name of cheap energy, while requiring only marginal improvements in the state's reliance on alternative energy production. Such proposals continue to encourage both consumption and the notion that cheap energy is an entitlement, rather than, for now, a limited resource." "Greening Florida for whom?".
"Alllllllllll aboard for Gooberville!"
Daniel Ruth may be wrong about this one - Kinda disappointing to read him whining about a Busch Gardens Chamber of Commerce hack losing out on a political appointment to one "Alligator Bob, otherwise known as Bob Young, an alligator trapper, hiking guide and purveyor of various alligator meat snacks".
Thanks to the Hillsborough County Commission, once again it's "Alllllllllll aboard for Gooberville!""Alligator Bob Has New Job In Gooberville".
Think about this for a moment. Suppose you were an Orange County commissioner and you were considering appointments to your local tourist development council.
The choice for the final seat on the board was between Disney World or Crazy Larry's Ear Wax Museum. What to do? What to do?
Now let's travel just a few short miles west to Hillsborough County, the Area 51 of government.
A few days ago, the county commission was pondering appointments for a seat on the Hillsborough County Tourist Development Council.
BTW, Ruth is right about one thing, the Orange County appointment - to virtually anything - not just the tourist development council - would have gone to the Disney World shill, who would have immediately proceeded to make sure that high speed rail would not have a stop at Universal Studios.
The song thing
"If history is a river, let it take the state song".
"A winning investment, a deal with doctors and rising inflation added up to very different outcomes for three of [the Palm Beach County] region's four nonprofit hospitals." "Nonprofit hospitals skirt tide of red ink".
One man's entrepreneurship is another man's "case of monumental looting"
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "A lawsuit by state regulators paints the collapse of the Poe insurance companies as a case of monumental looting. Regulators say Poe executives paid out $143-million in awards and dividends to William F. Poe Sr., his family and company managers even as the firms hurtled toward bankruptcy —the costs of which are now being borne by all insured Floridians."
Some questions which will never be formally answered:
- What happened between 2004 and 2006, as Poe's affiliates were going under? "The Poe insolvency".
- Why did regulators not intervene earlier, or move to help stabilize Poe's businesses?
- Did contributions from the Poe family and board members to state political candidates during that time — to, among others, then-Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher and the two top candidates to succeed him — induce officials to change their role from watchdog to enabler?
"Federal authorities have launched an investigation into the treatment of inmates at Miami-Dade County's jails." "Justice Department investigates conditions at Miami-Dade's jails". Aren't most people in jail merely awaiting trial (having simply been arrested), many of who are there because they cannot afford to bond out?
The dipper debate
The St. Petersburg Times brings, perhaps by accident, a little clarity to the "double dipper" debate:
Many multiple-dippers are low-ranking state employees who retired years ago when pensions were low, and they don't make much money now. Some only work part-time or handle critical jobs while replacements are sought. Many are teachers who have been urged to stick around and help out schools facing a teacher shortage."Double-dippers prevail". Obviously, it is the latter group that it is of concern.
But questions surround the more than 200 elected officials and 200 senior managers who have quietly "retired'' and continue working, sometimes drawing six-figure salaries on top of lucrative pension payments. Many remain in the same job where they earned their pension.
Unfortunately, the usual suspects are conflating the two groups to justify an unceasing jeremiad on all public sector employees."Double-dippers prevail".
April 4 datelines we missed yesterday:
- "Republican lawmakers Thursday thwarted restrictions to a bill that permits Floridians to have locked, concealed firearms in their cars at work, at the mall - and as Democrats argued - at private schools and day-care centers." "Attempts to muzzle guns bill stopped". RPOFers are so pusillanimous, they wanna be locked and loaded at "day-care centers"?
- The "lawmakers set to lead the Florida Legislature during the next four years want more direction from the panel that is on the verge of placing two mammoth tax proposals on the November ballot." "Will painful tax calls be left to lawmakers?".
- "McCain gets head start in Florida while Democrats wait on nominee".
- The Miami Herald editorial board: "In the throes of a budget crisis, state legislators are primed to cut funding for public schools and other vital services. So why would they consider expanding a school-voucher program that would siphon $140 million from the state over four years? It makes no sense." "Straight to the point".
- More from The Miami Herald editorial board: "the House spent two hours Wednesday discussing and then voting, 70-45, to adopt a bill requiring women seeking abortions to first submit to an ultrasound. Attention: Lawmakers -- the number of Floridians interested in further complicating a woman's constitutional right to choose is minuscule compared to those who want to fix Florida's economy and cut windstorminsurance premiums. Isn't it about time that the Legislature, dominated by men, stop these yearly attempts to hijack the rights of one-half the state's population? C'mon, folks, get back to the business of managing state government and stop meddling in women's private lives."
- Still more from The Miami Herald editorial board: "Senate President Ken Pruitt persuaded fellow senators to pass a bill that would radically change how the university system is run for the third time in less than a decade. Such constant change encourages chaos, not learning. House Speaker Marco Rubio and lawmakers should say No to the bill (HB 7025)."
- "Florida ballot could have many tax plans".
- "Florida lawmakers want voters to overhaul the state's education system for the fourth time in less than a decade, promising that this go-around, they've got it right." "Battle to control universities driving Pruitt's overhaul bid".