"The spending plan for the year starting July 1 is likely to prove a staggering $7 billion smaller than the budget approved last year at this time, underscoring just how much Florida's economic engine has been left running on fumes." "Devil of a legislative deal: Big cuts on the way".
"The moving target that has been Florida's $66.2 billion budget came in for a bumpier than usual landing Monday evening when it was delivered to lawmakers' desks at 6:28 p.m." "Florida budget set for final vote".
Today's agenda in Tally
On tap in Tally today:
TRANSPORTATION: Senators are expected to debate a transportation package that includes plans for a Central Florida commuter rail line and would let South Florida voters decide whether to impose a tax on cars rented at the area's international airports to provide a funding source for Tri-Rail."Tallahassee Scorecard".
ABORTION: Senators are expected to debate a bill requiring pregnant women in their first trimester to pay for an ultrasound examination if they are seeking an abortion and be offered the opportunity to view it.
CORPORATE VOUCHERS: The Senate also may take up a proposed increase in corporate-tax breaks for companies that help pay for poor students to attend private schools.
Out here in the fields
"Farm worker advocates sought to present more than 80,000 signatures to Burger King officials Monday urging the fast-food giant to join McDonald's Corp. and Taco Bell to help boost the wages of Florida tomato pickers and improve working conditions in the fields."
The presentation of the petitions, collected from all 50 states and 43 countries, came the same day that a newspaper reported a top Burger King official used his young daughter's e-mail address to spread misinformation about the farmworker group.""Farm worker advocates to present Burger King with petitions". More in the next post.
How low can you go?
"As the Coalition of Immokalee Workers prepares to deliver more than 60,000 petitions to Burger King headquarters in Miami today, the daughter of Burger King's vice-president Stephen Grover confirmed her father is responsible for online postings vilifying the coalition." The Fort Myers News-Press's Amy Bennett Williams writes that
often during the past year, when articles or videos about the coalition were posted on YouTube and various Internet news sites, someone using the online names activist2008 or surfxaholic36 would attach comments coalition member Greg Asbed has called "libelous."Much more detail: "Daughter of Burger King VP says dad wrote anti-coalition postings" (scroll down). Also, check out some of the comments to the story.
This one, from surfxaholic36, is representative: "The CIW is an attack organization lining the leaders pockets ... They make up issues and collect money from dupes that believe their story. To (sic) bad the people protesting don't have a clue regarding the facts. A bunch of fools!"
More here: "In a post still available Monday [but no longer] on YouTube, an individual with the girl’s screen name wrote: 'The CIW is an attack organization lining the leaders pockets by attacking restaurant companies. They make up issues and collect money from dupes that believe their story.'"
"Crist's latest populist [sic] pitch to tax-weary constituents: Cut the state gas tax by 10 cents for two weeks this summer." "Crist pushes gas holiday". See also "Crist, Fasano pushing for gas-tax holiday in Florida".
Howard Troxler: "Among the final ideas of the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, which meets every 20 years to overhaul Florida's tax system. ... because its members were chosen by the governor and Legislature, they've largely reflected the limits of the state's political leadership, instead of surmounting them." Consider the fruits of their labor:
More tax breaks for a select few in Florida?"You call that tax reform? Seriously?".
Making sure that the state can give its tax dollars to the church?
Those are the big ideas for fixing Florida's tax structure?
Another day at the office
Interrupted from a quiet day, gettin' fat "on the couch, finishing off a six-pack of beer and a pack of cigarettes", "Firefighters contain blaze near a Miami-Dade jail", before retiring to their dachas to enjoy their, "lavish", "tony", "platinum", "unbelievable" and otherwise "outlandish benefits" and "sweet pay plans".
This lazy dude apparently had the temerity to call in sick the next day: " officer dragged by car [a Mercedes no less] during traffic stop".
Speaking of health insurance
"Florida workers' health insurance costs climbed nearly one-third between 2001 and 2005 while income rose only slightly, a national trend that is still worsening and is straining the health-care system and consumers, researchers reported Monday. ... Those are big reasons the number of uninsured people in Florida has grown by 19 percent, to 3.7 million – about one in four adults."
Florida families [those with partially paid employer coverage] paid 32 percent of the cost of their health care insurance, on average, in 2005; employers paid the rest. That's up from 28 percent in 2001."Soaring costs force many Florida workers to drop health insurance".
The percentage of Florida employees with health coverage fell from 68 percent in 2001 to 63 percent four years later. That's below the national average of 67.5 percent.
The median income in Florida rose by less than 2 percent after inflation over the five years, to $39,849 in 2005. That's $3,000 below the national average.
Here's an idea: public sector employers should encourage this delightful private sector trend by recognizing, as breathlessly reported by the St. Pete Times, that some public employers have the audacity to "actually pay the same or a bigger share of worker health care costs in 2007 than they did five years ago."
As Florida's editorial pages have made clear, public employers ought to heed the advice of the country club set, and acknowledge that simply "shedding pension plans is a reasonable" thing for public employers to consider doing.
Back at the ranch, Rubio and Mr. Happy Face are still fighting
"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 its swift passage."
Both Gov. Charlie Crist and fellow Republican House Speaker Marco Rubio of West Miami have made the issue a top priority, though they now have only four days left to reconcile basic differences in their plans that reflect basic differences in their styles:"Bickering holds up health insurance bill".
• Crist's ''Cover Florida'' plan is simple and passed the Senate quietly and unanimously. It would offer individuals less-expensive health insurance in return for less-expansive coverage.
• Rubio's ''Florida Health Choices'' plan is more complex and passed on a party-line vote last week after Democrats forced a 16-hour slowdown. The plan borrows Cover Florida plans, and also creates a public-private corporation to act as a health-plan ''marketplace'' and human-resources department for small businesses.
Rubio and fellow House Republicans say they've scaled back their proposal, at Crist's insistence, to ensure it has more ''consumer protections.'' But they fear that could lead to "over-regulation.''
Though a compromise product is likely, Rubio is preparing to scuttle the legislation if Health Choices isn't in the mix.
Charlie may dodge yet another bullet
"A bill mandating ultrasound scans for all women seeking an abortion faces an uncertain vote Tuesday in the Florida Senate, where moderate Republicans are banding with Democrats to defeat it -- thereby sparing Gov. Charlie Crist from tackling an issue on which he has shifted his stance."
"Abortion bill heads to vote".
"The League of Women Voters of Florida and other groups who register voters sued the state Monday over a Florida voter registration law that imposes fines on the groups if they do not register voters according to deadlines, an attorney said." "Registration groups sue over voter registration law". See also "Groups registering voters sue over voter registration law" and "Groups oppose voter registration law".
"Florida House lawmakers approved a bill Monday that would require teachers to point out the flaws in evolution." "Evolution bill clears House; Senate approval unlikely".
"In a move that could bring religious-based alternative theories such as creationism into the classroom, the House on Monday voted largely along party lines to require Florida's public school teachers to challenge evolution."
But the House bill is at odds with a version approved by the Senate, which has already rejected the House's approach of instructing teachers to present a "scientific critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution.""House approves 'simpler and more straightforward' bill on teaching of evolution". See also "House passes controversial bill about teaching evolution", "Evolution 'critical analysis' bill passes Florida House, 71-43", "Florida House evolution bill stirs controversy", "House passes controversial bill about teaching evolution" and "Dueling bills on teaching of evolution may not survive".
On a 71-43 vote, the Republican-dominated House approved an anti-evolution bill that senators have said they cannot accept. Senate Republican leaders say they don't have the votes to stray from their version, approved last week, that focuses on the rights of teachers and students to express skeptical views of evolution.
The chambers have just four days to merge the two bills, as legislators still face weighty issues, from an austere budget to health care for the uninsured and property insurance.
"Extra fire power"
"Miami-area Democrats, seeking to show they have national support for three key congressional races against Republicans, brought in some extra fire power Monday: U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, head of the committee that helps House Democrats get elected. Van Hollen of Maryland pledged that the three Democratic challengers will have the backing of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee he oversees."
"Former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez is challenging Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart; former Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chairman Joe Garcia is running against Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart; and businesswoman Annettte Taddeo faces Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen." "Herald: National Democrats offer support to local candidates".
Jebbites hold the field
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "In devoting two ballot questions to school vouchers, the constitutionally empaneled Taxation and Budget Reform Commission removed any doubt about its agenda. The commission, which includes three members of former Gov. Jeb Bush's staff, placed his education legacy [such as it is] at the top of the list."
The tribute was led by a commission member, Patricia Levesque, who serves as paid director for the two foundations created to keep Bush's political fortunes alive. And let no one be fooled by what lies ahead. The commission has assured that pro- and antivoucher groups will make Florida a national battleground. The campaign will be ugly, costly, divisive — and just the kind of politics that Bush relished.It gets worse:
Call this Bush's postgubernatorial "devious plan." He and the Legislature repeatedly expanded voucher programs even as courts were ruling against the first program, Opportunity Scholarships. Now he gets a chance at payback, and had the familiar cheek to issue this statement on Friday: "Florida voters, not activist jurists, will ultimately decide the best way to provide a quality education for all of our students." Apparently, "activist" commissioners who go beyond their constitutional power don't bother him."Tax commission does Bush's bidding". The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "The Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission finished its work last week after doing great potential damage to the state."
The worst part about this upcoming voucher fight is the extent to which it will again polarize the debate on education reform. Gov. Charlie Crist has tried to restore trust with educators who under Bush were treated as though they were obstacles to progress. Some teacher union officials and voucher supporters have even worked behind the scenes to try to find common ground, and none of the remaining voucher programs have been challenged in court.
That cease-fire is about to be blown apart.
At this point, the damage is only potential because 60 percent of voters in November would have to approve the worst of the commission's proposed constitutional amendments. But the intent and effect of the worst amendments are hidden. On big issues, this commission chose politics over public responsibility."In one case, that would be the politics of Jeb Bush's anti-public education agenda."
The former governor created a program through which students at low-performing public schools could get vouchers - public money - to attend religious schools. As the Florida Supreme Court noted in a 7-2 ruling two years ago, that voucher program violates the state constitution because it "undermines the system of high-quality free public schools.""Appealing amendments would not help Florida".
Never one to admit when he's wrong, Mr. Bush tried to get the Legislature to circumvent the ruling. He failed, but House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, appointed Mr. Bush's former education adviser to the tax and budget commission. Five other commissioners also have ties to the former governor. Last week, the commission approved two amendments that would overturn the voucher ruling and allow public money for private, religious schools that don't have to give the FCAT, which the state uses to measure public schools.
Not surprisingly, Jebbie's usual dead enders in the media can't give it up. Today, Maitland housewife Mike Thomas writes - as part of a larger ode to "Jeb! - that "Bush recently started an education foundation, which will put on a national conference at Walt Disney World in June. It will be a huge pep rally for conservative reforms." We're sure the Maitland housewife will be there, adoringly reporting everything he is told.
Surely Thomas recognizes that his regurgitation of 'Jeb!" press releases, and otherwise mischaracterizing Jebbie's failed policies is just what Bushco wants; as noted above, Jebbie - when he isn't doing the fraud thing - is tending to the "two foundations created to keep [his] political fortunes alive".
As Thomas writes, "Jeb!"'s "minions, meanwhile, persuaded a taxation committee to put Jeb's beloved vouchers on the November ballot."
Passage would enshrine them in the state constitution.Thomas then goes off the deep end (thinking he's witty all the way), as wingnuts are prone to do:
It seems Jeb plans to become the Al Gore of American education:"Jeb's vouchers worked - will their revival?".
An Inkonvenent Trooth.
His case for school reform certainly is as strong as Al's case for carbon reform. And no school reform has been more misunderstood than vouchers.
"Will the governor do it again?"
"A year ago, Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed a bid to impose new fees on Florida renters who break their leases. Will the governor do it again? By a 38-0 vote, the Senate on Monday shipped to Crist a bill to change the state's 35-year-old landlord-tenant law by authorizing "early termination fees" against renters who leave before their leases are up." "Tenant bill heads to Crist's desk".
Gutting public schools
"Florida lawmakers appear headed toward expanding a program that gives [$118 million in income] tax credits to corporations that help pay for low-income children to attend private schools. ... critics blasted the giving of additional tax credits -- not collecting potential tax dollars -- at the same time a budget crunch is forcing the state to cut funding for public schools." "House OKs bill to expand credits for corporations".
"Try to follow this logic"
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "Try to follow this logic. Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the underfunded state-run insurer, does not charge actuarily sound rates. If a major hurricane hit Florida, insurance policyholders in this state would be hit with billions of dollars in assessments because Citizens would not have enough money to pay claims. Yet in the final week of the legislative session, state lawmakers appear poised to take $250-million from Citizens and steer it to new private insurance companies. That would be a reckless gamble, and Gov. Charlie Crist should follow through on his veto threat if legislators don't come to their senses." "Plan to tap Citizens is bad gamble".
"Legislative leaders slipped $50 million for Everglades cleanup back into the state budget only hours after announcing there was no money this year for the River of Grass, it became clear Monday." "$50 million for Everglades cleanup slipped back into Florida budget".
"'Future office is not ruled out, but it's certainly not ruled in,' said Webster, mentioned as a possible congressional candidate [Keller?] or successor to Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty, who will be ousted by county term limits in two years." "Central Florida lawmaker Daniel Webster coy about plans as term limits end 28-year tenure".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "If the way legislators previously helped communities plan their futures is a guide to what they come up with this time around, start fretting." "Our position: Legislators need to do more to get locals to stick to growth blueprints".
Acosta in action
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editor is far too forgiving of Acosta and the rest of Bushco's Keystone Kops, and their unproven claims that Miami paint-ballers were plotting with al-Qaida to blow up the Chicago Sears Tower: "The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars trying to convict seven Liberty City men of conspiring to launch terrorist attacks on American soil. But so far, the effort has been in vain. The case has resulted in two hung juries, and now prosecutors are seeking a third trial. The public is right to be skeptical." "Liberty City terrorist case unproven".
The rules don't apply
Nice to read that "the Florida House on Monday approved a bill that would prevent counties from enforcing regulations on land classified as agricultural." "Florida House acts to prevent farm-land regulation".
McBush sees a commie plot
"Taking up healthcare for the first time as the future GOP nominee, John McCain in Miami accused his Democratic rivals of seeking a government takeover to harness explosive costs." "In Florida, McCain turns focus to healthcare".
Why does Rubio hate American autistic children?
pThe Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "The House bill correctly seeks to cover children with a variety of developmental disorders, not solely autism. But because of House Speaker Marco Rubio's opposition, the bill does not require insurers to cover early diagnosis and treatment - the help parents of children with developmental disabilities need most. Instead, insurers would get two more years to continue lobbying against the mandate." "Require autism coverage". See also "Autism bill may need trimming to pass".
Not in the cards
"The Florida Senate on Monday soundly rejected a plan that would have let Palm Beach Kennel Club open an off-track card room and betting facility to help it better compete against Indian casinos and state-sanctioned slot machines at Broward County's pari-mutuels." "Florida Senate rejects plan to let Palm Beach Kennel Club add card room". See also "Senate kills 'disgusting' gambling bill".
"Patience and fortitude"
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "The primary election process has come up with more than its share of controversy and low-lights, but give credit to 14 of Florida's 26 superdelegates for their patience and fortitude." "Florida superdelegates shouldn't be in any hurry to choose".
If you like these kinds of things: "Test your knowledge of the Florida delegate debacle".
"Like a locomotive"
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "The state's sweetheart deal with CSX Transportation is barreling through Tallahassee like a locomotive, no matter the fiscal, legal and civic concerns that should grind it to a halt. The state's chief financial officer raised the latest red flag over the plan to purchase 61 miles of CSX track and create commuter rail in Central Florida, a deal that would allow the railroad to use the lines for freight at night." "One More Reason To Pull CSX Deal".
"Legislation that would mandate safer-burning cigarettes designed to reduce home fires will soon land on Gov. Charlie Crist's desk." "Bill passes requiring safer-burning cigarettes".
"The call girl who triggered the downfall of former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer sued the founder of the racy 'Girls Gone Wild' videos Monday for $10 million, claiming her image and name are being exploited. ... The lawsuit filed in federal court in Miami names as defendants 'Girls Gone Wild' founder Joe Francis, two of his companies and a man purportedly involved in creation of two Internet sites the lawsuit contends improperly use Dupre to sell DVDs and other products." "Ashley Dupre from Spitzer call girl case sues 'Girls Gone Wild' for $10 million over photos, video".
"They followed the rules"
Daniel Ruth: "If, come this January, John McCain finds himself standing on the steps of the Capitol Building taking the oath of office of the presidency of the United States, Howard Dean and his clipboard of condo association board members can rest easy, warm and secure in the knowledge they followed the rules - all the way into the dung heap of history. This is what happens when a major political party is turned into a sweat lodge, presided over by Neville Chamberlain meets Kermit the Frog." "People Have Shed Blood For This?"
"Statewide average loss of $130.85 per student"
"The reduction for Hillsborough pales next to the statewide average loss of $130.85 per student." "Hillsborough, Pinellas Schools Lose $38 Million In Budget".
At the trough
"Noteworthy names on the presumptive Republican nominee's most recent donor list: former House Speakers Allan Bense and John Thrasher, developers Mel and Brent Sembler, and political consultant Sally Bradshaw (formerly all of Mitt Romney's campaign) and political consultant Randy Enwright (formerly of Fred Thompson's campaign). And here's one more: former Gov. Jeb Bush, who gave $1,000." "Political big shots giving McCain's campaign a lift".
More than a flag pin
"U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, unveiled a five-point blueprint today to expand health care and other benefits for military veterans. Dubbed the Five-Star Veterans' Priority Plan, the initiative includes mandating funding for veterans' health care, strengthening benefits for National Guard and Reserves members, reviving and updating the G.I. Bill, eliminating the backlog of disability claims and guaranteeing health benefits for returning service members. " "Klein unveils vets' benefits proposal".
"It's [NOT] better than nothing"
The Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial board: "Throughout the legislative session scheduled to end this week, lawmakers rammed through crucial decisions with a cynical 'it's better than nothing' attitude. But in many cases, "nothing" would be preferable to the course lawmakers set. There's no better example of that than a bill intended to correct some of the state's worst cases of injustice." "Justice after prison".
"Nothing. And everything"
"What do fines for adorning trailer hitches with Truck Nutz -- those dangling modifiers of redneck mascul-inanity -- have to do with creating a 61-mile commuter rail service between DeLand and Polk County? Nothing. And everything." See what the editors mean here: "Sweeter pot, now OK commuter rail".