"The House on Thursday night approved Florida's $66.2 billion budget that slashes more than $4 billion in spending, but not without rancorous debate. " "House OKs $66B state budget".
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board observes that "if the standard of a society is how well it treats its less fortunate, then this budget before lawmakers today reflects a state that has come up short." "Cuts in Florida's state budget will hurt more than $6 billion would indicate".
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "This is a Legislature struggling to merely survive an economic recession and hoping for better times instead of offering a vision for a megastate that deserves better." "Budget lands with depressing thud".
"Services from courts to drivers-license offices will be cut back; government workers won't get raises. Teachers will lose their jobs; services for the disabled will shrink; and nursing-home patients might wait longer for bedside care. College and university students will pay about $70, or 6 percent, more per semester. There will be no sales-tax holiday for hurricane preparedness; the one for back-to-school items is shortened to seven days and doesn't include books. And parents will find it tougher to place their children in arts classes, summer school or other specialty programs. It's all because the budget is a stunning $5.7 billion smaller than the one approved just 12 months ago, during flush times that have long since faded." "Floridians steel for fallout from $5.7B budget cut". The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "Cuts force painful education choices".
"The Florida House approved a $66.2 billion budget Thursday that carves deeply into school funding and an array of health-care programs as a result of the biggest one-year drop in revenue in state history." "Florida House slashes school funding to balance budget".
"At the beginning of the legislative session, Senate leaders fast-tracked a resolution to weaken the Florida Board of Governors. With one day of session to go that resolution is at a crawl, and it will never reach the November ballot if House members don't unite behind it. The Senate has approved the proposal (SJR 2308), and House leaders will only say of its fate, 'We'll see.'" "House leaders say 'we'll see' about BOG bill".
"National leader in erecting barriers to voting"
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board lays it on the line: "Florida has become a national leader in erecting barriers to voting. Not only have Republican legislators failed to shake the legacy of 2000, they've made it worse. "At every step of the process," said attorney Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center for Justice in New York, 'there's a hurdle in Florida.'"
GOP legislators were upset in 2004 over the success of a grass-roots effort to register voters and pass a constitutional amendment that increased the minimum wage. One year later, the Legislature passed the first restraint on registrations. It was blocked in court. The Legislature tweaked it in 2007 and passed it again, shutting down the league and other not-for-profits that register voters."Hostile to registration".
Florida already trails most of the nation, with only about 65 percent of potential voters registered as of 2006, down from 72 percent in 2004. The rates are lower for minorities, the poor and young people. Those demographics benefit Republicans.
Despite an agreement to delay, Secretary of State Kurt Browning announced in March that he would begin enforcing the anti-registration law. He reversed himself this week, entering into a consent order that allows registration to continue unfettered until July. But the law, subject to a lawsuit, still could be in effect to block registration drives before the presidential election.
Florida's efforts to limit access continue with the no-match/no-vote law. It disenfranchises voters when registrations do not exactly match government databases. ...
Florida's reputation for partisan election policy dates to then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris' effort to deny legitimate votes in 2000. The state's use of rules to block vote-counting and disenfranchise ex-felons showed that politics mattered more than helping all people vote. The recent record shows that nothing has changed.
"Will it all work?"
"Up to 3.8 million uninsured Floridians could soon buy inexpensive health-coverage packages, after legislators tentatively agreed Thursday to a two-step plan serving individuals as well as small businesses."
The legislation blends Gov. Charlie Crist's proposal, offering stripped-down plans for as little as $150 a month, along with House Speaker Marco Rubio's proposal to establish a public-private corporation that would act as human-resources department and a virtual marketplace for health plans."Health plan for uninsured near passage".
Crist and the state Senate initially balked at the corporation concept, saying it created too much bureaucracy and too little regulation.
Under the compromise brokered between Crist and the House, the Senate plans to amend the legislation Friday to ensure that: The state Office of Insurance Regulation would have more say, employees would have more time to keep their current health plans if an employer switches to cheaper ones, and the new corporation would abide by open-records laws and be free of industry board members who would otherwise profit from their votes.
House leaders say they'll likely take the legislation and pass it Friday unless some unexpected poison pill ruins the deal. But even if the House signs off on the proposal, the big question remains: Will it all work?
"Curiouser and curiouser"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "The case of the $10-million congressional appropriation for a road in Florida that mysteriously found its way into a transportation funding bill gets curiouser and curiouser. Nearly three years after the bill was enacted, Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, has finally been shamed into explaining his role in the process, but his speech on the floor of the House this week was a self-serving, exculpatory declaration that raises more questions than it answers." "More questions about `road to perdition'".
"A refreshing alternative to the GOP mind-set"
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "The [petition signature] revocation law emerged from the 2007 legislative session. That year, the Legislature tried unsuccessfully to make it harder to gather signatures with paid help. A year earlier, voters approved a Republican proposal to require 60''percent approval for constitutional amendments. The appeals court has offered a refreshing alternative to the GOP mind-set: In matters related to the constitution, the constitution matters." "Hostile to constitution".
Let's pretend we care
"It might only create a task force, but Florida lawmakers gave final approval Thursday to a bill designed to prevent accidents like an explosion that killed two people at a Daytona Beach wastewater-treatment plant." "Worker safety bill heads to governor".
"Philosophy" or brain dead mantra?
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "The guiding philosophy [sic] among Republican lawmakers in Tallahassee is 'no new taxes.' That message has led to more tax cuts for longtime homeowners and the threat of a higher tax load for businesses."
Confronted with obvious inequity, lawmakers remain afraid of any change that might violate the simplistic slogan."Lily-Livered Lawmakers Fail To Give Business A Fair Shake".
One unfortunate result is higher taxes for in-state businesses than for out-of-state firms that sell by mail. The Legislature continues to refuse to try to collect taxes on Internet and catalog sales, though it doesn't miss a dime of taxes owed by in-state retailers.
Florida has taxed mom-and-pop motels nearly out of existence.
It allows multistate companies to shelter profits in low-tax states, while levying income taxes on Florida companies at the full rate.
More intrusive government restraints on entrepreneurial "spirit"
"Casino boats such as the Big M and SunCruz might have to refrain from dumping waste while they are out at sea." "Bill would regulate casino boat waste dumping".
"Florida lawmakers have killed a proposal to bar drivers from displaying metal replicas of bull testicles on their vehicles." "Proposed Truck Nutz ban fails to muster support".
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With apologies to General Mcauliffe
Beware "fraudulent foreclosure rescue services"
"State lawmakers passed a bill to protect delinquent borrowers from losing their homes and money to fraudulent foreclosure rescue services." "Foreclosure fraud bill OK'd".
The Miami Herald editorial board: "The [compensation] bill has a so-called 'clean hands' provision that would deny payment to someone who is wrongfully convicted but who has a prior felony conviction. This part of the bill is unnecessary and irrelevant. It is what happens when lawmakers allow politics to get in the way of clear thinking. When the state convicts someone and sends that person to prison for a crime he didn't commit, the state has a duty to make amends with compensation. Any prior, unrelated felony should have nothing to do with the compensation." "Partial step toward righting wrongs".
"Many of Florida's Congress members will face tough battles holding onto their seats this year as Democrats and Republicans compete for control of the U.S. House." "Many competitive congressional races will be on Fla. ballots".
"Senate President Pruitt honored, speaks of his son's death".
"Confronting the frantic end of the 60-day lawmaking session tonight, Senate Majority Leader Dan Webster, R- Winter Garden, conceded there was only a slim chance he could persuade his chamber to pass the legal protections that CSX Corp. has demanded before selling its 61.5 miles of Central Florida rail line. 'I'm pretty well resigned [to defeat],' said Webster, who placed the chances of passage today at '10 percent or less.'" "It's decision day for commuter rail". See also "Commuter rail stuck in the Senate" and "CSX Deal Runs Out Of Steam".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Today the fate of Central Florida's chance for commuter rail hangs by a thread in Tallahassee. It will take bold leadership to save it." "Siplin, Crist and Lynn are critical to today's momentous commuter-rail decision".
On the other hand, the The St. Petersburg Times editorial board argues that "the Florida Senate did right Wednesday by refusing to give away the store to CSX as part of building a commuter rail system in Orlando. From the start, the measure was a testament to how the state should not write laws, craft transportation policy or engage in partnerships with the private sector. Let's hope, with one day left in session, the project stays dead." "Senators wisely derail CXS plan".
"Customers of Citizens Property Insurance won't face an increase in premiums for another year under an insurance package overwhelmingly approved by the Legislature on Thursday and sent to the governor. But the measure, dubbed the 'Homeowners Bill of Rights Act,' offers no similar protections for customers of private insurers." "Insurance gets tweaks, not reform". See also "Lawmakers freeze rates, tighten insurance restrictions".
"Florida Legislature adopts stiff new penalties in gang fight".
"School and county officials in high-growth counties say they are facing an uphill battle in fighting a provision in a growth-management bill that would allow portable classrooms to be counted toward school concurrency." "Lawmakers: Allow portables to offset permanent classrooms".
Sue Carlton notes that "a particularly disturbing detail of the [unsuccessful ultrasound] bill would have exempted a woman from the ultrasound requirement if she is the victim of rape, incest, domestic violence or human trafficking — if she could provide documents to prove it. That means a restraining order, police report, medical records or court papers." "Abortion bill's close defeat leaves a chill".
Big of 'em
"Score one for Florida's panthers, black bears and gopher tortoises. Following on the heels of unanimous Senate support last week, the House on Wednesday voted unanimously to give the state's popular Florida Forever land conservation program another 10 years of life to help protect wildlife and wetlands from encroaching development." "Conservation Program Spared".
In house MJ
"One of Florida's largest cash crops -- 'grow house' marijuana -- is being targeted in new legislation that state lawmakers swiftly approved Thursday and sent to Gov. Charlie Crist for his likely signature." "Bill targets indoor marijuana growers".
"Companies that tutor kids in low-performing Miami-Dade schools will get a special break under an amendment tucked into a bill to grade the effectiveness of federally financed tutoring." "For-profit tutors could get break".
Ask the air head
"Ask the Governor: Lotto funds must be tied to education".
"Tech-savvy pranksters and scammers known as spoofers"
"Score a point for untainted Caller ID: the Legislature approved a proposed law Thursday cracking down on tech-savvy pranksters and scammers known as spoofers." "Unamused lawmakers hope bill makes spoofers go poof".
"As ethanol-blended fuel begins pouring into Florida, the state's gas stations are making a last-ditch effort to ensure that consumers can still buy regular gas." "No-ethanol measure advances".