"House Speaker Marco Rubio wanted a huge property tax cut but the Senate said no. Senate President Ken Pruitt wanted a higher education overhaul, and the House said no." "Florida legislative session ends with little to show". The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Session Was No Great Success, But Kept Bad Bills Off The Books".
"Lawmakers have signed off on the $66.2 billion budget that is now on its way to Gov. Charlie Crist for approval." "Florida's new budget has less money for schools, Medicaid, courts". See also "Belt-tightening session comes to an end".
I'd hate to see what he considers to be the "dark ages"
Charlie, who apparently still inhales, tells us that "we're living in a magic time: 'the golden age of the Florida Legislature.'"
Since last fall, three rounds of budget cuts caused by the drop in tax collections have taken $900-million out of public education in Florida, a state that already lags in nearly every measurable academic standard. If you're poor or disabled, it could be worse. "Steve Bousquet: Legislature's 'Golden Age' looks tarnished".
What do we have here? A courageous show of fiscal responsibility by the Republican legislature and governor, or irresponsibility of epic proportions?
Legislators cut money for foster children, adoptive parents and people with epilepsy. They really did reduce funding to the state-run School for the Deaf and Blind, explaining that it was the same as the 1.8-percent cut to public schools.
The 2008 session ended just as it began. Republicans congratulated themselves on their fiscal discipline and opposition to new taxes while Democrats decried the GOP's refusal to consider revenue options like increasing one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the country or closing even a few of those 250-odd sales tax exemptions.
"Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" ...
... and what will we do with them here in Florida?
"In the six months since Izquierdo regained custody of his young daughter after a high-profile court case, the two have developed a deep bond. It is one they never shared when the girl lived in Cuba with her mother, let alone after she first came to the U.S. and sparked an intense, international custody battle."
Yet in reclaiming one child, Izquierdo has found himself separated from nearly everything and everyone else he loves.And isn't this nice:
He lives alone with her in the U.S., jobless - a pariah to many Cuban-Americans who cannot fathom why he would want to return with the girl to the poverty-seeped, communist island their own families fled.As for that "poverty-seeped, communist island",
Izquierdo's pregnant wife Yanara Alvarez and their 7-year-old daughter Rachel returned to Cuba so Alvarez could take advantage of the country's free medical care during their son's birth. Mother and daughter have yet to receive permission from U.S. immigration authorities to return to Miami, Izquierdo's attorney said."Cuban father pays price for custody of daughter".
Subsidizing "risk taking" entrepreneurs
"DOT officials will officially have the authority to pay stipends to losing bidders under a bill now on its way to Gov. Charlie Crist." "Lawmakers: Pay losing contract bidders". See also "Senator trying to save bid losers".
Too bad they our Legislators couldn't find the same energy viz. decent legislation to recompense those who have been wrongfully imprisoned.
"For Florida's public school students, a minor revolution may soon be coming in the classroom."
The dreaded FCAT could be moved to later in the year to give children more time to learn the subjects they are tested on.This slight denigration of another Jebacy was not without a price:
And the exam's emphasis would be downgraded when it comes to calculating the grades given to the state's high schools, accounting in the future for only 50 percent of their A to F rating, with the remainder based on the graduation rate and other scholastic measures.
That's the upshot of the first major revamp of public education in nearly a decade approved Friday by the Florida Legislature, which also decided that the state must be more specific in what children are expected to learn at each grade level.
The Legislature also agreed to expand the Corporate Tax Credit program, which allows corporations to get tax credits if they donate funds to help send poor children to private schools. The plan would allow the state to hand out up to $118 million in tax credits — $30 million more than allowed this year.And this speaks volumes:
Lawmakers were not able to reach agreement on a bill that would have prevented nepotism in charter school hirings."Legislature approves major overhaul for FCAT". See also "Legislators OK reducing FCAT's role at high schools".
Your RPOF in action
"Senate Republicans agreed to an 'academic freedom' bill that offered protection for teachers who challenged evolution. House Republicans, however, wanted to require science instructors to include a 'critical analysis' of evolution in classes. With lawmakers failing to bridge the divide in their debate, both bills died as lawmakers adjourned for the year Friday." "Lesson plans for evolution remain intact".
Them librul newspapers are at it again
Here's a shocker, corporate hacks don't support a social program - the The Orlando Sentinel editorial board this morning couldn't resist editorializing about an obscure proposal in Congress: "If deficits aren't already big enough, some want extra paid leave for fathers".
The editors' position are of course entirely consistent with their mentors at the Florida Chamber of Commerce (who, by the way, aren't sure about whether global warming exists). The editors' reasoning:
Other countries with much higher taxes give employees benefits like this, but most U.S. employers don't.The editors once again make their corporate masters proud.
Here's a safety rule - do not get between a Sentinel editor and a nickel.
"Despite an attempt from House Republicans to reignite divisive property tax battles with their Senate counterparts, lawmakers agreed this morning to a package of less ambitious changes." "Property tax bill goes to Crist".
Idiot of the week: Florida Chamber President says "climate change may or may not be true"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board shares this with us this morning: "Both the Florida Chamber and Mr. Martinez, scheduled to meet the day after the seminar, say they know well what's at stake. The senator says he's convinced humans contribute to climate change. Florida Chamber President Mark Wilson says 'climate change may or may not be true,' but that the reality is Florida needs to find enough energy to support another 10 million people by 2030." "It's important for Sen. Martinez to support smart energy initiative".
Saying that "climate change may or may not be true" is tin foil hat territory - why is the Florida Chamber of Commerce given any credence by the Florida media?
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "Some experts say the $9 billion citrus industry needs a minimum of 500,000 acres of trees to remain viable; it has about 550,000 now. The Legislature's $2 million for research is a modest down payment to protect an industry that provides 78,000 jobs and also the state's signature icon. What would Florida be without its orange trees?" "Save the citrus industry".
"Central Florida might have lost more than a 61-mile commuter-rail system Friday when the Florida Legislature failed to approve the train that would have run from DeLand to Orlando and Poinciana." "Train wreck: Hopes for Orlando-area commuter rail dashed on last day of legislative session".
On a related note, Daniel Ruth writes that "judging from the solid waste generated by some first-rate public relations flackery, you would think the good citizens of Central Florida arise every morning and gaze longingly out their windows in the unrequited hope that someday soon a CSX choo-choo will come blowing by to turn their pastureland into a teaming hub of locomotion." "Who's Against The CSX Deal? Why, Nobody!"
No fat kids
"Bill makes gym class mandatory for middle schoolers".
"Revived at the literal last minute"
"After being pronounced dead by the prime sponsor, a bill providing more help for families with an autistic child was ", and gained final approval in the House's final vote before adjourning Friday. " "Autism bill gets nod". See also "Senate's weaker autism bill passes".
"For those who need support, Florida now has Qwitter, an online service that allows you to update friends on your progress moment-by-moment through the networking Web site Twitter." "Florida turns to freebies, Web for anti-smoking campaign".
The "values" crowd
"Justice Thomas, along with his ideological soulmates Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito, found nothing wrong with Indiana's 2005 law requiring a state or federal government-issued photo ID for voting, even if poor - and mostly minority - voters may have to spend money to get one."
To those justices, it might as well be 1937, when an earlier court refused to strike down the poll tax that Southern states began using after the Civil War to disenfranchise African-Americans."The 24th amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1964, finally ended the poll tax. Now, back it comes, in a lighter, sanitized version from Republican legislatures. States like Indiana have claimed that restrictive ID laws will prevent voter identity fraud. Supporters, though, have yet to show a case of someone trying to vote by pretending to be someone else."
Florida allows voters to use nine forms of valid photo identification: a driver license; a Florida ID; a passport; a debit or credit card; and a military, student, retirement center, neighborhood association or public assistance ID. Last year, though, the Legislature removed two forms. That's where it should stop. Florida has enough barriers to voting without trying to be like Indiana."Court wrong on voting".
"Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban exiles who climbed the political ranks to become Florida's first Cuban-American speaker of the state House of Representatives, bade an emotional farewell Friday afternoon, choking back tears as he spoke about his motivation to succeed: his parents." "Rubio's emotional farewell".
"1 for 2"
"In the last day of the legislative session, Miami-Dade lawmakers went one-for-two on affordable housing bills they've pushed throughout the 60-day session." "Local legislators go 1 for 2 on housing bills".
"Can we have our money back, please?"
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "Can we have our money back, please? The state is investing $15,000 to find out. Unlike about $2 billion in other investments having to do with the State Board of Administration, this one makes sense."
Last year, J.P. Morgan and Lehman Brothers [where Jebbie now "works"] sold the board - which (allegedly) oversees Florida's panoply of pension and investment funds - about $2 billion in securities whose value collapsed days later. Financial officers for local governments learned of the weak investments and started a run on one of the state's funds. Last week, the state agreed to pay the West Palm Beach law firm of Berman DeValerio Pease Tabacco Burt & Pucillo $15,000 to determine whether Florida has grounds for a lawsuit against the brokers."Drafts of an audit by the accounting firm Clifton Gunderson LLP provide ammunition for the state's attorneys."
The State Board of Administration was not a federally qualified buyer for roughly a third of the rotten securities. On the surface, that's more proof of poor leadership by former SBA Director Coleman Stipanovich, who got the job because of connections to former Gov. Jeb Bush. Mr. Stipanovich's brother, one of the state's leading Republicans, advised Katherine Harris during the 2000 recount.But it goes higher in RPOF-world:
The glaring political question now is whether Florida was a sucker for Lehman Brothers because Jeb Bush took a job there shortly after leaving office."Get a return for state on tainted investments".
"Quietly and with little public notice, more than 250 judges as well as two dozen state attorneys and public defenders won re-election Friday as the qualifying period for judicial offices ended." "Unopposed judges quietly keep their seats".
"Still unclear ..."
"A priority of Gov. Charlie Crist, his 'Cover Florida' plan was merged with a House 'Florida Health Choices' plan that also creates a state-funded $1.5-million corporation to manage the program."
Talks between the governor's aides and the House bogged down on Crist's insistence that the corporation's 12 political appointees comply with ethics and public meeting laws, and that health insurers not be allowed to serve because of possible conflicts of interest."Health care bills may help children". See also "Health care bills may help children".
Still unclear, however, is how well Crist's plan will work and what exactly consumers will be able to buy for $150 a month. In the next couple of months, the state will invite insurance companies to submit proposals.
"The centerpiece of Crist's plan is that it exempts insurers from covering most of the 51 procedures or treatments they now are forced to cover by state law. That convinced insurance companies that they could afford to offer bargain-basement rates. ... 'This is a step in the right direction, but there are some glaring loopholes,' said Bill Newton, executive director of the Florida Consumer Action Network" "Health coverage bill offers basics to the uninsured". See also "Lawmakers OK health-care plan for uninsured".