"Bitter partisanship brought the Florida House to a mind-numbing crawl on Friday. Outraged when Republicans stifled debate on an education bill, Democrats retaliated the only way they could." "Tussle bogs down state House until 2:17 a.m.". See also "Lawmakers Stuck In House", "State House session locked in partisan battle", "Florida House Democrats invoke rare delay tactic", "Partisan fight slows House" and "Partisan rancor erupts in Florida House".
"As a clerk began reading aloud from an 86-page condo-association bill, a visibly angry Rubio slammed down his gavel, ordered the House sergeant-at-arms to make sure all 119 members were in the chamber, then lock the doors." "House session ends after 12-hour 'read-a-thon'".
The Friday afternoon news dump
Charlie was apparently AWOL at the Friday afternoon data dump announcing that "Florida's jobless rate hit 4.9 percent in March, the highest level in more than four years, the state Agency for Workforce Innovation said Friday. The state lost 56,600 jobs since last March." "Florida's jobless rate rises to 4.9 percent".
It ain't your great grandfather's Republican party
"For years, ultrasound machines have been powerful weapons in the religious right's arsenal to stop women from having abortions. Now conservative Florida lawmakers are pulling a page out of antiabortion activists' playbook and trying to make them part of state law. ... The ultrasound bill Traviesa [R-Wingnutville] sponsored passed the House this month by a vote of 70-45. In the Senate, a similar bill, filed by Majority Leader Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden, is awaiting approval by the full chamber." "Abortion bills about rights, not religion, backers say".
Concerning a related piece of wingnuttery over in the Senate, the Dems are responding creatively to the RPOFer attempt to protect the teaching of "creationism" in public schools: "'We're talking about academic freedom,' said Deutch. 'In an abstinence-only sex education program, a teacher may wish to answer a student's question and provide additional information that may protect a life or stop an unwanted pregnancy.' But the Republican-led Senate wouldn't buy it." "Florida Senate rejects free speech protection for sex education teachers".
"The Republican-led Senate wouldn't buy it" - well, what do you expect: it ain't your great grandfather's Republican party.
"State would lease Alligator Alley to itself"
"The state would lease Alligator Alley to itself under a plan proposed by a powerful GOP senator late Thursday evening." "Alligator Alley could be cash cow".
Thank goodness for these "powerful GOP senators" and their brilliant ideas.
Then again, anything would be better than ... believe it or not ... privatizing it: "The state could receive between $600 million and $1.6 billion in the future by issuing bonds for the only major east-west highway across South Florida instead of privatizing it, accounting firm KPMG concluded."
More from the "values" crowd
"The budget is the clearest statement of values and priorities the Florida Legislature makes each year. Lawmakers get to decide how to spend your tax money. You get decide whether they value what you value. In the budget proposed by the House of Representatives, two figures stand out."
The first is $418-million. That's how much money the House wants to spend next year to build more prison beds."Short-term savings, huge costs".
The second number is zero. That's how much money the House would spend next year to help inmates deal with drug and alcohol abuse.
More RPOFer "values": "Florida lawmakers are pondering deep cuts to programs for children as kids may face greater risk of abuse and neglect." "Budget cuts could put more children at risk".
"Government in the shadows"
"It's government in the shadows, according to critics of Florida lawmakers' behind-the-scenes negotiations shutting out the public and even Democratic elected officials from budget talks. Budget agreements between the two chambers normally undergo a tiered process in which lower-level appropriations chairmen wheel and deal at public conferences where residents are allowed to give input."
Not so this year. With a $5 billion budget hole to plug, lawmakers up for reelection in November would prefer to keep quiet.The petulant child speaks:
"This is absolutely distressing that so many critical aspects of government decisions are being made without anybody watching," said House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach lawyer in charge of the chamber's minority party.
House GOP leaders contend that this year's private negotiations are just business as usual.Here's how Saint Rubio's "open and everybody had an opportunity to participate" process works:
"It's the season where people make unfounded allegations," said Jill Chamberlain, spokeswoman for House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami. "We feel the process is very open and everybody had an opportunity to participate and will continue to have so in the (budget) conference."
Late Thursday evening, Senate budget chief Lisa Carlton, R-Osprey, and her House counterpart, Ray Sansom, R-Destin, revealed that they had agreed to key issues including education funding and the state land-buying program, Florida Forever.And where is Mr. open government Governor? Why, he - and his silent "Office of Open Government" - asleep at the wheel yet again:
That was news to lawmakers on the conference committees assigned to those areas and to lobbyists representing the affected entities.
The secret deals defy Gov. Charlie Crist's priority of sunshine in government."Backroom budget talks 'distressing,' top Democrat says".
In his first executive order, Crist created the Office of Open Government to assist the public's access to records and information about the state's sunshine laws.
Surely you're not serious?
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "The Florida Department of Transportation's track record on commuter rail services is a dubious one at best. In recent weeks, DOT has bullied South Florida officials for seeking new revenue for Tri-Rail and has pushed a questionable deal for the state's largest freight line." "Florida Department of Transportation needs to take mass transit more seriously".
"After stirring an unexpected amount of debate over an unsuccessful amendment regarding gender issues, the anti-bullying bill unanimously passed the full Florida House on Friday." "Florida House unanimously passes anti-bullying legislation".
"This spring's property-tax end game in the capital started Friday, with a prominent senator and a procession of business leaders inveighing against a proposal to cut property taxes but replace them with taxes on sales and, possibly, services." "Bid to cut property taxes, raise sales tax stirs up capital".
"A powerful state senator held a one-man tribunal Friday to point out the pitfalls of a proposed constitutional amendment to swap some school-district property taxes for higher sales taxes. Sen. Mike Haridopolos, a Melbourne Republican who chairs the Senate Finance and Tax Committee, had tried earlier to persuade the state Taxation and Budget Reform Commission to explain what they meant when they required legislators to find the money to replace the $9 billion for schools if voters approve the amendment in November." "Powerful senator condemns tax swap".
"The House early Saturday passed a massive plan to make bare-bones health insurance available that wouldn't cover all illnesses, but also wouldn't cost as much. A less wide-ranging proposal has already passed the Senate, but the goal of both plans is to provide cheaper coverage so that some of the nearly 4 million uninsured Floridians might be able to get insurance." "House passes health insurance bill".
Kenric Ward: "Amid the current wasteful, development-driven system, homeowners are squeezed by ever-tightening and evermore Byzantine irrigation rules. Gov. Charlie Crist ratcheted up the rhetoric this month in calling for statewide restrictions."
But without a commensurate commitment to reclaiming the cascading flows of runoff water, Crist’s “conservation” plan — if one can call it that — merely has Florida circling the drain. Clearer, less-compromised thinking is needed."Florida circling the drain". See also "Fla. Gov. Crist criticizes tri-state water sharing proposal".
As the water picture darkens, calls for desalination are rising. When Florida’s construction business returns, expect those calls to grow louder. Yet desalination, whether from the ocean or the increasingly salty Floridan Aquifer, is no panacea. Tampa has struggled mightily with the reliability of its municipal plant, and its energy costs are enormous.
What to do? Here are four alternative ideas for the short- and long-term:
• Better manage the abundant water supplies we already have.
• Restrict growth according to our communities’ ability to provide affordable, quality water.
• Substantially raise impact fees on new development to fully support the cost of supply.
• Repair the state’s fractured water-delivery system by plugging the political and infrastructural cracks that allow our most precious resource to keep slipping through our fingers.
"Shop a little faster"
"Florida families will have to shop a little faster if they want to take advantage of the tax-free period for buying school clothes next summer. " "Budget cuts in Florida eat into tax holidays".
The Miami Herald editorial board: "News from our Department of Poetic Justice: On April 15 -- the tax filing deadline -- the House of Representatives voted to bar the Internal Revenue Service from using private debt collection agencies to gather unpaid taxes. The measure would shut down a money-wasting IRS program that hires private firms to find delinquent taxpayers and collect debts. Problem is, the program costs more than the money that is collected. Yes, you read that right." "IRS doesn't need private tax collectors".
"Voice of the People Act"
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Democracy is messy. Listening to competing viewpoints can be time-consuming and tedious. Speakers are not always articulate, diplomatic or coherent. That means government meetings will never function with auto-line efficiency. And that's just fine. Elected officials should make it a priority to listen to citizens, not shut them out and vote as quickly as possible. Thus, the importance of the 'Voice of the People Act,' sponsored by, among others, Rep. Michael Scionti, a Tampa Democrat." "Making Sure Citizens Are Heard".
"In hopes of damping 'FCAT frenzy,' as well as easing teacher and student angst, the Legislature is expected this spring to approve a major revamp of Florida's public school testing program — from the body of knowledge students are expected to learn to when they take the exam." "Florida Legislature poised to reform dreaded FCAT".
So much for corporate "altruism"
"A corporate gift of enough land for a new $200-million University of South Florida campus in Lakeland has been lauded for its public benefits. But the company donating the land, the Williams Acquisition Holding Co., stands to reap some benefits of its own." "Donating land to a college can become a windfall".
Another Young Challenger
"Mayor Bob Hackworth confirmed Wednesday he will run for the seat in Congress held by Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores. Hackworth also said that he changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. He said he'll address the reason for the switch and other specifics of his candidacy Tuesday at 5 p.m. outside City Hall in Dunedin." "Dunedin mayor switches parties, eyes Rep. Young's seat".
Top teachers to go without
"A national program that rewards more than 11,000 of Florida's top teachers for continuing their education and going through a rigorous training program is slated to be slashed by lawmakers despite warnings from Gov. Charlie Crist to leave it alone. The Senate and House have each passed bills that would gut the program, one which has enjoyed widespread support in the educational community." "House, Senate move bills that threaten teacher merit pay".
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Environmentally conscious Floridians don't need another reason to encourage their elected officials to safeguard wildlife and wilderness lands. Protecting Florida's natural beauty should be a no-brainer." "Protecting State's Natural Beauty Provides Major Financial Rewards".
Not "completely shameless"
"It's good to see that Congress isn't completely shameless when it comes to sneaking pork into the federal budget. The U.S. Senate called on the Justice Department to investigate a budget "earmark" that funneled $10 million to connect Coconut Road to Interstate 75 in Southwest Florida -- without members of Congress even knowing about it." "The U.S. Senate is right to ask for probe of outrageous road project".
Too bad the Sentinel can't find the time to praise this other Senate investigation: Bernie Sanders on Florida "Slavery"
Here ... you do it
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "Each of the past three years, Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats has had more child abuse cases to investigate. Each of those years, the Legislature has given him no more money to do it. Now the situation has reached a breaking point as lawmakers threaten to cut his budget. If that happens, Coats said, he will have to give the responsibility for child abuse investigations back to the state. When legislators act irresponsibly, this is the only prudent response true public servants can make." "Cuts put abused kids at risk".
Bucher termed out
"Pronounced "booker," the 49-year-old Democrat from West Palm Beach has just two weeks left before being forced out due to term limits. She will leave without a significant piece of legislation to her name." "Bucher nearly done holding GOP to the fire".
Read her story and you'll be less than impressed with the over hyped background of "Karl Rove's Florida Frankenstein".
"Complaining that today's kids may not be learning what they need to know to get a job, the state House unanimously passed Friday an education bill that mandates a top-to-bottom revamping of the education children should get in public schools." "Education faces overhaul in Florida".
More of those "state budget restraints"
"Four years ago, Florida jumped on the bandwagon to create a nationwide health information network that would allow doctors and hospitals to share the electronic medical records of patients -- replacing an outdated paper-based system that still relies on fax machines and snail mail for the exchange of patient files. But state budget restraints over the last two years have slowed development of an electronic system in Florida, leaving regional organizations that are working on their corners of the network largely to fend for themselves." "Money short for records network".
There's an idea
"It's time for the Iraqis to pay for the reconstruction of their country and the on-going presence of U.S. troops there, says U.S. Rep. Ron Klein." "Klein says Iraqis should pay for rebuilding their country".
Why is this even an issue?
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Rep. Geraldine Thompson took up Daniel's fight in the Legislature and is appealing to Speaker Marco Rubio and other leaders to waive the House rules and consider Daniel's case before the session ends in two weeks. House members, please, don't turn your backs on Daniel." "Legislators should approve payment to Orange student disfigured by pit bull".
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "There's time for quibbling about whether homeless assessment centers recommended by an advisory board should be hidden in industrial parks or given visibility in urban neighborhoods. It's enough for now to fully commit to an approach that aims at nothing less than the eradication of homelessness." "Save homelessness plan from bureaucratic death".