"The jolt from Jeb Bush's decision not to run for the U.S. Senate could lead to one of the biggest political shake-ups in Southwest Florida's recent history."
By the time the last domino falls, the region could be looking at a new member of Congress, two new state senators, three new state house members and two new county commissioners to go with the new U.S. senator."In political game, Buchanan holds the first domino".
It all hinges on the first domino: U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan.
With Bush out, Buchanan of Longboat Key has emerged as one of the leading Republican contenders for the seat being vacated in 2010 by Sen. Mel Martinez.
"The full House and Senate are scheduled Friday to approve their budget cut plans that ... cut virtually every type of program and nearly drain the state's savings account." "A few differences remain in House, Senate state budget cuts".
"At the halfway point of their painful special session on plugging a $2.4 billion hole in Florida's budget, Republican legislative leaders are poised to make serious cuts in already-reduced spending and dig deeply into state trust funds and reserves." "Florida House, Senate gear up to compromise". See also "Road Budget Cuts Hit Speed Bumps In Legislature".
Robbing Peter ...
"Scratching for money to balance the budget, state lawmakers could suspend funding for the Florida Forever land-buying program and divert hundreds of millions of dollars from transportation and affordable-housing programs." "Fla. Forever in danger of cuts". See also "Environmental programs face cuts", "Florida's conservation program could take hit", "Environmental programs could suffer more budget cuts" and "Senate Looks To Suspend Florida Forever".
... I guess it was just a "Temporary Thing" after all ...
The Tampa Trib editors: "State Will Pay High Price If It Drops Florida Forever".
Just the start
"House and Senate approval of budget deficit-elimination plans won't mean work is over for Florida lawmakers. After the two chambers vote Friday, joint conference committees will be formed to hash out differences. Two of the biggest are whether to cut spending for road building and other transportation projects and how much money to borrow from the state's tobacco settlement endowment." "Fla. House, Senate votes set on budget deficit".
Raw political courage
"In order to shore up Florida's budget, lawmakers plan to impose higher fines on motorists for all traffic infractions. And discounts for attending traffic school will be a thing of the past." "Traffic fines are going up in Florida". See also "Legislators want to boost fines to help budget" and "Traffic fines to increase".
"'Please, let's stop this madness'"
"The son of the late Gov. Lawton Chiles and a prominent Tampa lawyer pleaded with Democratic legislators Thursday to prevent Florida's anti-tobacco trust fund from being raided to balance the state budget."
"Please, let's stop this madness," said Bud Chiles, whose father inspired the anti-tobacco lawsuit that won the money for the trust fund."Bud Chiles: Don't Mess With Florida's Anti-Tobacco Fund".
Chiles and Steve Yerrid, one of the "dream team" of trial lawyers who won the $11 billion settlement in the lawsuit in 1997, appeared to recognize that the Democrats can't stop trust fund money from being used to plug the state budget gap.
"If you're poor, don't get sick"
"Part of the Florida Legislature's prescription for weathering the worst recession in three decades amounts to this: If you're poor, don't get sick." "Medicaid slashed as demand soars". See also "Florida's Medicaid funding faces major cuts".
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "Finally, someone in Tallahassee is raising questions about whether House Speaker Ray Sansom should be investigated for abusing his public office. Not Gov. Charlie Crist. Not Attorney General Bill McCollum. Not other Republicans in the Legislature. To find this brave soul requires crossing Monroe Street from the state Capitol to the Leon County Courthouse."
State Attorney Willie Meggs will ask a grand jury this month whether it wants to investigate Sansom. It's about time someone didSome questions
• Was the unadvertised administrative job that the college gave Sansom on the same day he became speaker a payoff for the millions in construction dollars he steered to the college?"Questions for the Speaker".
• If Sansom continued to follow through on the college's multiyear plan to so baldly cash in on his legislative leadership, was he to be rewarded with the college presidency when Richburg retires?
• How did it come to pass that Sansom put $6-million in school construction money into the state budget for a Destin Airport building and hangar that would be owned by the college and virtually identical to one once sought by a friend and political contributor?
"It makes no sense"
Bill Cotterell: "If there's one thing that legislators, lobbyists and meddlesome ethics do-gooders can all agree on, it's that old cliche about how you can't legislate morality." "Gift ban's problem is it makes no sense".
We get what we pay for
The St. Petersburg Times "The Florida House and Senate are poised today to pass separate plans to reduce the state’s $2.4-billion deficit. Both lack vision and creativity. The Republican leadership refuses to raise new revenue beyond court fees and traffic fines, and relies too heavily on spending cuts and reducing reserves to dangerously low levels. It is a short-term strategy that inflicts more pain than necessary on schools, social services and health care and leaves the state in a financially precarious position." "Budget plans lack vision, add pain".
Just in from the Geniuses at the Zell Corporation ...
... have this for us today: "Florida's chief executive and its lawmakers appear perfectly willing to impose cuts that could force local governments to get rid of employees, including schoolteachers. Yet they show no inclination to demand more efficiency from Tallahassee."
Businesses across the nation, meanwhile, are reducing work forces in nearly every sector of the economy. Some companies trying to avoid layoffs instead are imposing furloughs, unpaid vacations and reduced work weeks."State employees shouldn't be exempted from reductions".
Mr. Crist, however, has declared state employees untouchable, telling lawmakers, "Our state employees provide a valuable resource to all Floridians and should be commended for their service."
No one is disputing the value of their service, as few would dispute the value of teachers who have lost their jobs.
What's disputable is the wisdom and fairness of refusing to demand, in the midst of economic turmoil, more efficiency from state government.
Earth to Planet Zell: Florida's public employees are already among the lowest paid and hardest working (per capita) in the nation. Anything else?
From a distance
"The boiling debate over the conflict in the Gaza Strip returned to the streets of Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, but this time both sides hurled insults at each other from a safe distance." "Insults fly during Fort Lauderdale protests over Israel's Gaza invasion".
Welfare for politicians?
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "Under public financing,"
candidates who raise a threshold amount of money and agree to spending limits are eligible for public matching funds. Contributions of $250 or less from individuals are matched 1-to-1 with public funds, which are raised by an optional tax "add-on" from taxpayers. If a candidate exceeds the voluntary spending limit, their opponent is eligible to receive additional public funds equal to the amount by which the limit has been exceeded."Our Opinion: Keep public financing option".
This makes elections more competitive and open to a broader array of citizens — though of course not every candidate wants the restrictions. Some critics call it "welfare to politicians," who don't have access to deep pockets. ...
As long as there is no limit to the amount of money that can be given to parties, and then passed around to party favorites; and as long as there is no limit to contributions that can be made to front organizations called 527s — there are limits on individual contributions — candidates can easily become public officials who are beholden to their contributors from Day 1.
The option of public financing is one small way to help tip the balance back in favor of the public.
RPOFer bites the dust
"Mary McCarty, a colorful and combative force in Palm Beach County politics for two decades, on Thursday became the latest and biggest figure to fall in the ongoing federal investigation of corruption in local government." "McCarty resigns, will take plea deal". The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "'Where's mine?' mentality pervades Corruption County" and "The non-apology apology".
On a related subject, Joel Englehardt: "End of 'pay-to-play,' or recess?".
Wait a minute
"The Judicial Qualifications Commission has decided it won't immediately weigh in on whether Palm Beach County judge-elect should be allowed to serve while his law license is suspended." "Judicial panel cancels hearing on Abramson".
"You'd have a better chance of getting lucky with Angelina Jolie"
Daniel Ruth: "A plate of futility with a dash of hope".
A family thing
"The Hillsborough County Republican Party's executive board named Joshua Burgin its party administrator today. Burgin is the brother of recently elected state Rep. Rachel Burgin and was an aide to former state Rep. Johnny Byrd. He ran unsuccessfully to replace his boss in 2004 when Byrd stepped down." "Lawmaker Burgin's Brother Named To County GOP Post".
"A judicial thumb on the scales"
"The Florida Supreme Court formally rebuked Brevard County Circuit Judge George W. Maxwell III Thursday for putting 'a judicial thumb on the scales" to spring the sister of a former law partner from jail without a hearing in a domestic-violence case." "Florida Supreme Court rebukes circuit judge".
"The House and Senate were expected to vote on the legislation Friday as part of a special session focused mainly on dealing with a budget deficit of at least $2.3 billion." "Fla. business loan bill on track for passage".
"The parents of a 23-year-old Florida woman killed during a botched police drug operation said Thursday they'll work with state lawmakers on legislation to better protect confidential informants like their daughter." "Family of slain woman wants stricter informant law". See also "Official: 'Rachel's Law' a clarion call for reform".