"The third time may be the charm, or it could be a strikeout, for a proposed state constitutional amendment that would cap state and local taxes, fees and other revenues. The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission will take it up again today after twice delaying a vote. The panel ran out of time at each of its last two meetings after spending hours hearing what officials, lobbyists and taxpayers — mostly taxpayers — had to say about the proposal that could chop billions of dollars from government budgets." "Amendment to cap spending close to a vote". See also "Tax reform or ruin? Panel to vote today".
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "Looking for a smart and responsible way to jump out of a plane without a parachute?"
Here's a hint: There isn't one."Taxpayer 'Bill of Rights' all wrong for Florida".
The same impossibility should dictate that the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission give up trying to find a smart and responsible way to concoct a formula that would force all governments in the state to collect just exactly the right amount of taxes. There is no one-size-fits-all formula. But as business, education and political leaders in Colorado found out, there is a one-size-ruins-all formula.
"Deciding between rhetoric and lives"
The Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial board: "The lack of health insurance kills six Floridians a day, according to a recent report by Families USA. People die because they don't get the preventative health care that would catch serious conditions such as cancer while they're still treatable, or because progressive illnesses like heart disease and diabetes aren't controlled with medication and oversight. The group estimates that 2400 Floridians between the ages of 25 and 64 died in 2006 because they lacked insurance."
"A separate report, published by the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration, All Children's Hospital and Nemours, estimates that one in every 10 Florida children don't get the basic health-care services they need to grow up healthy."
"There are alternatives, but thus far, lawmakers refuse to consider them." "A deadly choice".
Hiaasen on "Happiness"
Carl Hiaasen begins his column this way this way: "Happiness is a warm gun in a steaming hot car." "Firearm law adds danger to workplace".
The VP thing?
Beth Reinhard gives us "four reasons why Crist isn't vice presidential material:"
- "Crist has all of 16 months of governing under his belt. He hasn't been tested on the national stage, and he has no foreign policy experience."Reinhard switches gears and gives us "four reasons Crist is in the running:"
- "Crist's biggest asset -- his ability to help deliver the nation's fourth largest state -- declines in value as long as Barack Obama is the Democratic front-runner. McCain won Florida's Jan. 29 primary and has less reason to worry about a state that Obama lost and hasn't visited in months."
- "Crist's moderate politics and bachelor lifestyle could rankle conservatives suspicious of McCain. Imagine their reaction if McCain picked a single man who has never owned a home, prefers to 'change hearts and not the law' on abortion, and has distanced himself from a campaign to ban gay marriage."
- "Crist's enviable approval ratings have only one way to go as the economy falters, some pollsters say. He's going to sign a budget next month that will include massive cuts to public schools and social services."
- "He's the popular governor of the largest battleground state in the country. By most calculations, a Republican who wins Florida wins the White House."Much more here: "Pundits split on Crist's VP shot".
- "Crist came through with a clutch endorsement for McCain that helped him win the Florida primary and made him the front-runner for the nomination."
- "Both McCain and Crist are Republicans known for reaching out to Democrats."
- "Crist is a lot of things McCain is not. He is young. He is telegenic. He is good at raising money. He can draw African-American voters. He is a great campaigner."
Out here in the fields ...
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board asks if "it really going to take an act of Congress to get Florida's tomato pickers a raise?"
The men and women who work the fields in Immokalee earn 45 cents on average for every 32-pound bucket of tomatoes harvested. It is a meager wage that has not been raised in more than 20 years. Yet when a couple of fast food giants generously agreed to pay workers an added penny per pound, the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange sabotaged the deal and has refused to negotiate even after congressional leaders offered to be intermediaries.Actually, it is very, very easy to understand - the owners want complete and total control over their workers. They want complete power to exploit their workers and their families. This, despite the fact
The extra penny was to be paid directly by McDonald's Corp. and Yum Brands Inc., which operates restaurant chains like Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. It wouldn't have cost the growers a nickel. Even so, the Growers Exchange has reportedly threatened its members with a fine of $100,000 if they participate. This is hard to understand.
Florida's migrant farm laborers are among the worst paid workers in the state. They haven't had a piece rate increase in a generation, and the Growers Exchange wants to keep it that way."Farmworkers denied 1 cent".
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Too many questions remain about Florida's experiment with Medicaid reform to expand it. Medicaid pilot programs in Broward and four other counties were created to save the state money without reducing the quality of health services for people with low incomes. Two years later, we still don't know if the experiment worked. However, studies have found serious problems. That's why the Legislature should reject any proposal [by House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami] to expand these so-called reforms." "Higher copays, fewer services, more fraud".
The Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial board: "Florida legislators have the resources of an entire state government -- including voluminous expert opinions on almost any subject they might face -- at their beck and call. And when those experts agree that something is a bad idea, they should probably listen." "Failure to learn".
"Barely a year ago, Attorney General Bill McCollum and legislative leaders were ready for a statewide assault on the cyber-predators who stalk online chat rooms in search of sex with children. But as the House and Senate begin budget negotiations, Florida's fiscal restraints have eliminated two of the seven specialized strike forces — in Tallahassee and Fort Myers e_SEmD and two others are barely hanging on in Tampa and Pensacola." "Florida budget cuts endanger cybercrime investigations".
RPOFers confused by the "forever" part
The Miami Herald editorial board: "for some unfathomable reason, the Florida House has dropped Everglades cleanup funding altogether from its version of the 2008-09 state budget. It has also allocated zero dollars for Florida Forever, the state's popular land-acquisition program that conserves green space throughout the state." "Fund Glades cleanup, Florida Forever".
DCA carrot on the chopping block
The Florida Communities Trust is "a nationally recognized feel-good program that doles out grants to cities and counties to buy parks, especially if it helps the municipality meet its growth-management plans. Now the Florida Legislature wants to take DCA's carrot away." "Agency that controls Florida growth could lose popular grant program".
The Palm Beach Post editors: "Marco Rubio couldn't call it his 101st innovative idea, because it's the same old politics."
Why else would the Florida House speaker, as The Miami Herald reported, slip tough-to-spot language into a state budget plan for the possible enrichment of a longtime personal friend and big-time political supporter? That would be Max Alvarez, president of Miami-based Sunshine Gasoline Distributors, owner of more than 60 gas stations in the region and supplier for 100-plus more. ..."A favoritism fill-up".
Rubio touts the 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future book he compiled and talks breathlessly about "world-class" school standards, but he's having trouble getting the ethical basics right. He failed to disclose a $135,000 home-equity loan from some political allies. Now, it's the gas contract for Mr. Alvarez, whose family members and corporations have contributed at least $9,000 to Rep. Rubio since 1999, the Herald reported. The only innovation has been in the explanations Rep. Rubio has invented.
One man's "common sense"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Florida's lawmakers are closing in on a state budget that reflects too little concern for the needy, too little creativity to stem government waste and, glaringly, far too little common sense." "Some of legislators' budget cuts don't even make financial sense".
"Pregnant women in South Florida face fewer choices for medical care as more doctors stop delivering babies and avoid taking on high-risk patients." "More S. Florida obstetricians stop delivering babies, cut services".
From the "values" crowd
"Among the cuts considered: Eliminating health care coverage for 19,000 chronically ill Floridians; cutting dental and hearing coverage for 146,000 elderly; and significantly lowering reimbursement rates for hospitals and health departments who serve the poor." "Tampa Bay area services brace for big budget cuts".
Do these people believe what they're saying?
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "South Florida Water Management District board member Melissa Meeker said that her recent trip to Israel posed no conflicts of interest, though an Israeli publication reported that she was there to check on potential deals between the district and two military contractors based in Florida. The fact that she had to deny it is the problem." "Next time, travel lighter".
Alan Farago in CounterPunc writes that the "Miami Herald notes the undercurrent of disappointment that replacements for the two Cuban American governing board members appointed by Bush, well-connected to the development and agriculture industries like Big Sugar, were not carefully matched by Crist."
But Crist gave the Growth Machine an appointee who runs part of the Disney operation-- what bluer chip symbol than that, to assuage the concerns of the Growth Machine? And he appointed a Miami graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School-- presumably as adapt at balancing competing interests as Crist's appointed chair of the governing board, Eric Buermann."The Politics of the Growth Machine - Eating South Florida".
No doubt Miami Cuban American developers are disappointed. So, too, the dynastic ambitions of former Governor Jeb Bush. In their extreme zeal to promote unsustainable growth, they've done enough to impose massive costs on the state of Florida and the nation. Let them now tend to their cash flows.
Florida: In the news
"'Dr. Phil' staff helps post bail for teen charged in videotaped beating".
"Florida's war on knowledge"
Our apologies for missing this column by Elizabeth Bird, chair of the anthropology department at USF, the other day:
As Florida professors watch with dismay what seems to be the systematic dismantling of our university system, we find ourselves, for once, speechless. Anything we say will surely sound self-serving; as our esteemed Florida Senate President Ken Pruitt has put it, we should "suck it up and deal with it.""Florida's war on knowledge".
"GOP-written budget cuts"
Last week, Florida "Democrats spent more than 14 hours over two days lambasting the GOP-written budget cuts they said would kill children, leave elderly hospice patients to die alone and protect 'out-of-state megacorporations' -- prompting House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach, to complain they had come to the Capitol solely to 'point fingers, play games and hold press conferences.'"
The rhetoric is ultimately aimed toward November, when Democrats hope to ride a wave of anti-George W. Bush sentiment (and, they hope, anti-Republican sentiment) to more gains in the Legislature."Are cuts tough, or are they ruthless?".
Democrats have added a net of eight House seats since 2006, and a poll last week by Quinnipiac University showed the public gave lawmakers an abysmally low 32 percent approval rating.
In the House, where Republicans hold a 77-43 majority, Democrats think at least 10 GOP seats could be in play this fall.
In the Senate, they've recruited former Sen. (and 2006 attorney general candidate) Skip Campbell to take on the incoming president, Jeff Atwater of North Palm Beach.
"Term limits will sweep through the Legislature again this fall, with five veteran senators and 29 House members being shown the door. But a new study by a pair of Florida Atlantic University political scientists shows that the 1992 voter-approved measure has contributed to a lack of competition for legislative seats." A study shows that challengers often
prefer to wait for a seat to open rather than compete against an incumbent; legislative gerrymandering that has carved districts loaded with one party's voters (mostly Republican); and an inability of Democrats to field candidates across the state."Term papers".
Their findings bolster those of University of Central Florida political scientist Scot Schraufnagel, who in 2006 found term limits had done little to change the racial or professional makeup of the Legislature.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "State legislators can send a strong signal to one sector of higher education by funding Florida Resident Assistant Grants to the tune of $2,700 or so per student."
The grants would come in very handy this year, as the crunch at state universities sends more students to private and independent colleges in Florida."Lawmakers can send a positive message with FRAG funding for college students".
The independent colleges in the state do have capacity and can take up the outflow, especially graduates of two-year community colleges. However, the private not-for-profit colleges say they need assurance of stability in FRAG funding.
A fine idea at the time
"It looked like a big victory for gay and lesbian Floridians and their allies: A state Senate committee overwhelmingly approved legislation last week that would ban discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation", but without gender identity protections. However,
big statewide gay rights group, Equality Florida, supports only the legislation sponsored by state Rep. Kelly Skidmore, D-Boca Raton, because it includes gender identity protection. The Skidmore version is stalled in the House and hasn't gotten a hearing or any Republican co-sponsors."Dispute stalls bill banning bias over sexual orientation".
Stratton Pollitzer, deputy director of Equality Florida, called Skidmore "an incredible hero to us."
Rand Hoch, president of the gay rights organization Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, said he's discussed the issue with many legislators and the all-inclusive legislation Pollitzer wants is less likely to pass.
State Sen. Dave Aronberg, D- Greenacres, said the Deutch legislation [without gender identity protection], which he's co-sponsoring, is much more realistic.