Speaker Sansom's death spiral
If you want it, we've got today's "FloBama". Our digest and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.
"Florida House Speaker Ray Sansom has not learned the first thing about handling controversy. Rule 1: When caught doing something wrong, don't try to deceive the public. The cover-up always makes it worse. The Destin Republican apparently skipped that chapter in the legislative handbook." "Deceit further shreds credibility".
Privatizers say "jump"! ... Florida says "how high sir?"
"A controversial proposal to lease Alligator Alley has been postponed another four months, this time at the request of the prospective bidders due to the global recession."
"Four of the six approved foreign bidders had U.S. investment firms as equity partners, including subsidiaries of Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and now defunct Lehman Brothers." "Proposal to lease Alligator Alley postponed".
Why do RPOFers hate books (at least those without pictures)?
The Tampa Trib editorial board: "State Sen. Ronda Storms, in a recent budget hearing on libraries, seemed to be appointing herself chief librarian by suggesting that "
the Dewey Decimal System is a waste of money and that it's time to force "little old librarians" to "wake up and smell the coffee."
"Storms' Odd Library Plans Deserve To Be Shelved".
She said the traditional numbering system is complicated and frustrating.
Charlie's budget blues
Bill Cotterell today: "To make up the $2.3 billion gap, Crist proposes:"
- Cutting state spending by $561.5 million*,
"Crist proposes deeper cuts". See also "Crist budget-gap plan: Lots o' borrowing" and "State's budget plan: Tap trust funds, increase debt".
- Taking $325.3 million from reserves,
- Issuing $314 million in bonds for prison construction,
- Using $88.9 million worth of unspent construction money,
- Pulling $290.3 million from the budget-stabilization fund,
- Borrowing $600 million from the Chiles Endowment, and
- Tapping $135 million in new gambling revenues from Seminole casinos.
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* "An eight-page chart of 'spending adjustments' accompanying Crist's letter showed a wide range of cuts that included:"
- $21.6 million for community college operating expenses,
More: "Crist proposes cuts, sweeps to make up $2.3 billion gap".
- $4.8 million for juvenile probation,
- $2.5 million for Highway Patrol vehicle replacements,
- $10.5 million from the Lottery's scratch-off contract, and,
- $5.4 million from voluntary pre-kindergarten.
Charlie agin Chiles
All this is setting up a fight between Charlie and the Chiles family:Here's the kicker:
One of the trust funds he wants to tap is the Lawton Chiles Endowment, which invests money from the state's tobacco settlement for future use on health programs for children and the elderly.
"Budget plan would avoid government layoffs in Fla.".
The endowment is down to about $1 billion, about half of what it was worth in June, due to the declining financial markets and current-year obligations.
Crist wants to borrow $600 million from the endowment, which is named for Gov. Lawton Chiles, who played a leading role in obtaining the settlement.
Chiles' family opposes taking money out of the endowment. It is reassembling the legal "dream team" that helped Florida win the settlement to sue the state if it tries to do that.
"It's very foolish fiscal policy but more foolish public policy," said Lawton "Bud" Chiles III, the late governor's son [who has political aspirations].
The League of Cities snaps its fingers ...
... and the ding bats on The Tampa Trib jump - this morning the editorial board warns not to "expect any concessions from the me-first union crowd" "Council's Union Concessions Dig Crater In City Budget".
With these dopes running the newspaper, it is easy to see why the Trib's business is in the toilet.
Has Labarga backed into a FSC appointment?
"Crist on Tuesday defended a state panel against criticism that it's gotten for bowing to his request to expand a pool of finalists for a Florida Supreme Court opening. Seventeen lawyers ... on Monday sent the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commssion's chairman a letter saying it may have run afoul of the state constitution with the late addition of a politically connected Cuban-American lawyer from Miami."
Crist wrote the panel a letter Dec. 10, claiming his appointment of the only Hispanic nominee, Circuit Judge Jorge Labarga of West Palm Beach, to an appellate court had removed him from the Supreme Court pool. Crist asked the commission for two more names - the maximum allowed is six - to make the pool more diverse.
"Lawyers question Fla. Supreme Court nomination". More: "Gov. Charlie Crist's calls for diverse judicial picks might lead to lawsuit".
Asked Tuesday if Labarga was still available for the Supreme Court, Crist said, "I think so, yeah."
The new nominee is Navy general counsel Frank Jimenez [who appears to be Charlie's favored son], who once worked for Jeb Bush when he was governor and Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., when he headed the Deparment Housing and Urban Development.
The Miami Herald editorial board: "If Gov. Charlie Crist wanted to ruin the concept of diversity, he could do no better than his ham-fisted handling of a nomination to fill a vacancy on the Florida Supreme Court."
By compelling the commission to bend the rules, Gov. Crist taints the process. The commission is allowed to submit six names to the governor. However, after rigorously screening dozens of candidates, the commission settled on five names. In other words, if the JNC had determined that a sixth candidate was qualified, that person would have been included on the original list.
To suddenly produce a sixth name after Gov. Crist selects the only Hispanic on the list and asks for more ''diversity'' isn't the way real diversity works. Diversity means giving everyone an equal chance, not cherry-picking the only one you want.
For background, see yesterday's "Just like "Jeb!"".
"A classic case of environmental racism"
"More than two decades after environmental regulators discovered that manufacturers leaked cancer-causing chemicals into Riviera Beach's water supply, cleanup is set to begin. And the company responsible for the contamination will pay. This is great news for Riviera Beach, which has had to spend public money to ensure that residents had safe water even though Honeywell and Solitron Devices contaminated the city's aquifer with hazardous chemicals." "Riviera Beach vindicated".
The cleanup, and the "environmental regulations" attendant thereto, are of course what RPOFers mean when they talk about burdens on the entrepreneurial spirit, the "freedom to choose", blah, blah, blah ...
"The calculating side of the governor who's looking beyond Tallahassee"
Randy Schultz last week: "Few politicians do the aw-shucks look as convincingly as Gov. Crist. Last week, though, showed the calculating side of the governor who's looking beyond Tallahassee." "Fix was in for U.S. Sugar deal".
Resign to run
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Wellington Village Councilman Bob Margolis gambled his seat for a run at supervisor of elections in Palm Beach County. He lost. But now he wants his colleagues on the council to reappoint him. They should politely tell him no. ..."
"In 2007, the state Legislature removed the requirement that statewide officeholders resign when running for federal office. That consequence-free choice looked good to Gov. Crist, who was dreaming of a spot on a national ticket. But that's not why voters put them in office. And Mr. Margolis should not repeat the bad example they set." Read it all here: "No free pass for Margolis".
"The dramatic drop in home values"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "The ['dramatic drop in home value'] numbers underscore the need - especially in Florida - for a federal plan to deal with foreclosures, a plan that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has refused to consider. But Mr. Paulson has less than a month left in office. Fortunately, the sentiment is different among Barack Obama's advisers." "Stop the home-price slide".
I want that ... too ...
"Incoming Hillsborough Elections Supervisor Phyllis Busansky will have to deal with at least one more curiosity when she takes office, in addition to a budget headache."
She will inherit departing Supervisor Buddy Johnson's top deputy, like it or not.
"Buddy Johnson makes it expensive to remove top aide". See also "Johnson says shame on critics in budget fight" ("Johnson and his chief deputy say he's getting a raw deal on his budget bailout appeal.")
Johnson signed an employment agreement with Kathy Harris, his chief of staff and general counsel, this year that keeps her on board until May. Busansky takes office Jan. 6.
The terms were crafted that way even though Johnson faced a re-election challenge in November, which he ultimately lost.
The agreement contemplates that possibility and that Johnson's successor may not want to keep his most trusted adviser. It then obligates Busansky to provide Harris three months' notice if she decides to let her go, with full pay and benefits.
At Harris' $175,032 annual salary (as of Nov. 11), that's worth at least $43,000, plus the cost of benefits.
"Three Bay area members of Congress — Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Kathy Castor and Adam Putnam — say they intend to launch new congressional efforts to create a free-mail-to-troops program for service members in combat zones." "3 Florida Lawmakers Plan Push For Free Mail To Troops".