On the heels of Adam C. Smith's piece yesterday, "Accepting Fla. vote could boost Obama", we read today that "Barack Obama, growing confident he will be the Democratic presidential nominee, promised a group of uncommitted superdelegates on Thursday that Florida's delegation will be counted at the party's national convention this summer." "Obama: Florida delegates will count".
"Florida led the nation in mortgage fraud last year and was second in foreclosures"
The Palm Beach Post's Dan Moffett: "The more investigators keep digging in South Florida the more mortgage fraud they find. Like the U.S. economic downturn, no one's sure where the bottom is. According to several reports, Florida led the nation in mortgage fraud last year and was second in foreclosures; at least 70 percent of the 300,000 foreclosed loans involved some type of fraud. The Legislature passed a bill last month increasing the criminal penalties for mortgage fraud to up to 15 years in state prison, and Gov. Crist is expected to sign it." "Bad loans, bad people".
Happy faced hypocrite
Steve Bousquet reminds us of yet another example of Charlie's two faced hypocrisy:
Gov. Charlie Crist said "God bless Gov. Chiles" as the 2008 Legislature drew to a close last week, thankful for $2.4-billion in reserves made possible by the late Lawton Chiles.You see, Mr. Happy Face,
Lawmakers used $300-million of the money to avoid painful cuts for the state's sickest and poorest this year.
But the money, the settlement from Florida's lawsuit against Big Tobacco, would never have been there if Crist had gotten his way in the mid 1990s.
Crist, then a [wingnut] Republican state senator from St. Petersburg, was also among the most prominent in opposing the Democratic governor's assault on tobacco companies."Crist has a $2.4-billion change of heart".
Crist was among the lawmakers who unwittingly approved a law change in 1994 that made it possible for the state to sue tobacco companies seeking to recoup Medicaid expenses for people with tobacco-related illnesses.
The following year, in 1995, Crist voted with the majority to repeal the so-called third-party liability law on a 32-7 Senate vote. But Chiles vetoed it.
Much work left to do
The Palm Beach Post's Jac Wilder VerSteeg: "legislators increased the number of students who can go to private schools using vouchers, they still refused to require voucher schools to give tests that would allow direct comparison to public schools. The FCAT-based school grades former Gov. Jeb Bush forced on Florida might be fading, but his double standard isn't. Finally, all these changes have little effect on grades in elementary and middle schools. Even when the changes are in effect for high schools, the idea that a single grade can capture a school's quality will remain bogus." "A start in high school".
He adds this: "Even as Florida inches away from using the FCAT to grade schools, new shenanigans concerning the writing portion of the test show why giving the FCAT such great weight never has made sense." "A bogus writing test"
Sorry, but ating Hugo and Fidel ain't enough
"Among the heavy-hitters [sic] attending the Republican Hispanic Conference: ... U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez; and U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida."
You have to ask: how many hood ornaments can the GOPers get in one room?
"Democrats see this as simply another election-season effort that doesn't equal a lasting relationship. The state's Democratic Party says it has had Hispanic caucuses for years."
"They are doing this because they are starting to feel desperate, and they probably know that no incumbent should feel confident in this state," said Alejandro Miyar, a Democratic Party spokesman."Florida Republicans court Hispanics at Orlando conference".
State voter registration numbers show that although most Florida Hispanics were registered Republicans as of the past primary, the party has lost more than 5,000 Hispanic voters since 2006.
Meanwhile, Democrats saw a registration increase of more than 13,000 Hispanics.
Indeed, "Hispanic voters registered as Democrats have overtaken Hispanic Republicans in Florida, signaling a trend that, if it continues, could have far-reaching implications for the 2008 election and U.S. foreign policy." "Democrats tout shift in Hispanic voting".
Imagine that, "the state acting as the collection plate for a religious organization"?
"A Tampa group that promotes healthy families would be the first of its kind allowed to ask Florida drivers to donate money under a little-noticed bill headed to the governor."
Critics, some of whom contend that the group is faith-based, say the proposed law sets a bad precedent and raises constitutional questions.Family First founder Mark
Family First, whose supporters include former Gov. Jeb Bush and Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, would be the only group listed on drivers' licenses and car tag renewal forms that's not involved in public health, safety or wildlife protection.
The bill adds Family First to the forms, which allow motorists to donate $1 to specific causes.
The American Civil Liberties Union will ask Gov. Charlie Crist to veto the bill, contending it violates the separation of church and state.
"Clearly, it's a troubling constitutional issue," said ACLU attorney Larry Spalding. "We're having the state acting as the collection plate for a religious organization."
Merrill said Family First is an educational and research group, not faith-based. Crist has not taken a position on the bill (SB 630)."Prevent Blindness, Save the Manatee — and give to Family First?".
Family First uses Web sites, e-mails and radio spots to promote what it calls a pro-family agenda with the help of leaders like Dungy and his All-Pro Dad program, which emphasizes responsible fatherhood and reading the Bible. (The St. Petersburg Times has agreed to help promote an "All-Star Dads" event June 21 at Tropicana Field organized by Family First).
Merrill, a Tampa lawyer, was an unpaid adviser to Bush, who allowed Merrill to send "Family Minute" e-mails to state workers that emphasized strengthening families but which some recipients said carried religious overtones.
Merrill has been an outspoken critic of same-sex marriage. In the mid 1990s, Family First, known as the Florida Family Council, criticized a decision by the Walt Disney Co. to offer health coverage to partners of gay employees and circulated a protest letter to state lawmakers. In an NPR interview in 1996, Merrill accused Disney of putting domestic partnerships "on a same footing with heterosexual marriage."
"Florida moving in the opposite direction"
"Mass transit should be a top priority right now for Florida and its major cities. Gas prices are soaring. Road congestion threatens the environment and growth. Cash-strapped governments are looking to stem the bleeding from serving the ever-outward suburbs. Mass transit is attractive because it makes financial sense. So why is Florida moving in the opposite direction?"
Hey Mel, wanna talk to your guys?
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "The latest bid for more drilling came in a package of energy proposals from Senate Republicans. The drilling proposal would sink a bipartisan compromise on oil and natural-gas rigs in the Gulf reached just two years ago." "There they go again".
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "CSX Transportation and proponents of an Orlando commuter-rail project promise they'll be back before the Legislature next year, locomotives smoking. They have one more year to convince Florida lawmakers to buy 61 miles of track for $650 million, though the railroad would use the tracks at night and during off-peak hours. That's not all the contract says, of course. There's also the part about rerouting dozens of daily trains - as many as 56 - on another CSX track that runs through downtown Lakeland and Plant City. And there's the part about taxpayers paying for the damages from any accident, even those caused by the freight trains." "Commuter Rail Needs Rescuing With Frank Explanations".
"Florida's Board of Governors settled the dispute about university tuition this morning by reducing their recommended 8 percent hike to meet the legislatively-approved 6 percent increase."
But board members said they want the revenue from that increase to go specifically to decreasing the professor-to-student ratio and creating more need-based financial aid. ..."University board settles tuition dispute, for now".
Today's decision to go with the 6 percent increase appeases the argument temporarily while a lawsuit, filed by the board against the legislature, moves through the court system.
Florida's booming economy
On the heels of this story yesterday, "10 suspects questioned in migrant smuggling at Miami-Dade, Monroe border", we get more delightful news: " More than 80 people were arrested in a federal sweep of four companies that allegedly arranged fraudulent marriages to earn immigrants citizenship, even organizing wedding photos with bridal gowns and elaborate, but fake, wedding cakes, federal officials said Friday." "Federal marriage-for-citizenship sting nets 80 arrests".
Except for the things "industry lobbyists" didn't want
"The bill runs to more than 200 pages, so oft-changed and densely packed that lobbyists who studied it intensively for two months still aren't entirely sure what's in it. The bill now awaits Gov. Charlie Crist's signature."
"It's great!" Crist exclaimed in an interview Tuesday. "Of course it's great. Are you kidding? We've finally moved Florida and the Southeast to the forefront on climate change!" [sic]"Gov. Crist hails energy bill, but green impact is faded".
The only compromise Crist acknowledged was a last-minute amendment in the House that forbids Florida from mimicking California's low-carbon standard for cars. Auto industry lobbyists successfully pushed the measure through.
... is up to his old tricks: "Early release not a solution for Florida's crowded prisons".
And this is news?
"Crist stopped at MacDill Air Force Base Thursday, where he briefly thanked veterans for their service, shook hands with a Norwegian Army general and played coy to a question about his girlfriend." "Gov. Crist thanks troops at MacDill Air Force Base".
We're number 1!
"Florida again leads the nation in boating fatalities." The solution?: more of that government regulation we Floridians supposedly hate - "the commission has approved a plan to phase in mandatory boater education requirements over the next 11 years. State officials say this could reduce fatalities by as much as 25 percent. Last year, 70 percent of all boating accidents involved operators with no formal safety education; for fatalities, that number was 85 percent." "State No. 1 in boating fatalities with 77 in 2007".
Not mentioned in the story ...
... she's a RPOFer: "Floridians unfortunately can expect local officials to rip apart plans managing growth another 12,000 or so times this year because too many state lawmakers couldn't care less. And because too many lawmakers also are doing their very best to make it easier for developers to run roughshod over them."
Take Volusia County's Sen. Evelyn Lynn. In one of the more pathetic and ultimately harmful moves we've seen in the Legislature in a long while, Ms. Lynn last Friday delayed a vote on a proposal to toughen local growth plans. The delay, coming on the last day of the legislative session, effectively killed the bill.Anh, heck ... so is he:
What's particularly depressing here is that Ms. Lynn has plenty of company among legislators intent on weakening blueprints designed to sensibly manage how communities and regions grow. Earlier in the session, Rep. Dean Cannon managed to pluck from the bill a needed reform allowing local governments to make major changes to their growth plans only if they can produce a supermajority vote."Our position: Lynn's assault on growth bill means locals have to step up".
Just say "no" to Wal Mart
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "During tough economic times, it is tempting to invariably go for the cheapest price available, but in the long run, the loss of character that comes to communities when we abandon them is a much higher price to pay and diminishes our quality of life in the long run." "Locally owned".
"Mixed" is putting it politely
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Whenever the Legislature convenes a new session, there is anticipation about what will be accomplished. Just as predictably when the session ends, there is disappointment about what was left undone. The 2008 Legislature was no different." "Legislature ends with mixed reviews".