"Under the House version of the $819 billion spending bill, Florida could be shortchanged by a provision that requires states to maintain school spending to ''at least at the level of fiscal year 2006'' to qualify for as much as $3.58 billion in education spending. Because the cash-strapped state has sliced education funding, state officials estimate the state would be about $600 million short this year -- and ineligible for the federal dollars." And if this don't beat all:
Local school districts said they're working with Gov. Charlie Crist's office and members of Congress for a fix. ..."U.S. aid bill has Florida schools squirming".
Florida Sen. Mel Martinez will push his proposal to address the issue this week. A spokesman for the Republican said he planned to reach out to other states that may be in similar circumstances.
No Republicans in the House voted for the bill when it cleared the chamber last week, and Martinez has not yet decided whether he supports it, spokesman Ken Lundberg said.
Our man Mel is hardly in a position to insist that the Blue-staters jump to Florida's rescue.
Floridians long ago chose the path of cheapness and decrepitude inherent in a low tax state; do they really expect the federal government to bail them out? Do they really expect the folks in Michigan, New York and Illinois to bail us out?
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board puts it this way: "In health benefits for the poor or the unemployed, in unemployment compensation, and in education funding, Florida is among the stingiest states in the country."
That was the case before the economic crisis, which made matters worse. The $819 billion economic recovery bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week and scheduled for a Senate vote this week includes billions in aid to the states. It should help Floridians, but it won't help them nearly as much as it could because Florida legislators refuse either to provide adequate services or fund them at levels that would draw down Floridians' deserved share in federal dollars."Florida's turn".
"State should stop cruel and unusual punishment"
"When federal Judge Timothy J. Corrigan ruled three weeks ago that spraying mentally ill inmates with skin-blistering chemicals violates the Constitution's ban against cruel and unusual punishment, it seemed that Florida might finally put an end to a horrible, unnecessary practice. Instead, the state is fighting the ruling." "Sick policy: Gassing mentally ill inmates".
Like rats on a sinking ship
"Three days after announcing he was temporarily stepping aside as speaker of the Florida House, Ray Sansom will be forced tonight to fully give up the job." "GOP moves to oust Sansom".
It seems "Florida House Speaker Ray Sansom's unprecedented and 'temporary' transfer of power couldn't survive the weekend."
House Republicans plan to caucus this evening in Tallahassee to name a new GOP leader under party rules -- the first move in an effort to permanently severe Sansom's grip on the speakership, according to numerous GOP legislators involved in the negotiations."Speaker's job-saving strategy falters".
"Over the weekend, people have raised questions, and that made us stop and think," said Rep. Dean Cannon, a Winter Park Republican who is slated to be speaker in 2010 and was involved in the negotiations.
The leading candidate to permanently fill the office for the next two years remains Rep. Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, the speaker pro tem whom Sansom tapped Friday to temporarily fill in while Sansom's legal problems played out.
The Daytona Beach News Journal editor: "State House Speaker Ray Sansom abused the trust given to him by fellow lawmakers and the people of Florida. Even as he stepped aside -- temporarily, he says -- from his leadership position, Sansom maintained his stubborn insistence that he's done nothing wrong." "House speaker's self-demotion was overdue". More: The Miami Herald editorial board: "Sansom releases gavel".
Cretul, Speaker pro tem of the Florida House issues a press release: "House's values will remain".
Stop the madness
Bill Cotterell: "With the Convergys contract running out in 2011, the Legislature directed OPPAGA to contract with some outside consultants to advise DMS on what to do for an encore. Should they bring personnel back 'in house?' Find another company? Maybe some combination of in-housing and out-sourcing?
OPPAGA hired EquaTerra, an expert on such stuff. That was kind of cool — they outsourced the study of the outsourcing.And guess what, the contractor said it would be brilliant to, you know ... keep doing the same thing ... contract out the government work:
the briefcase brigade recommends that DMS keep Convergys, with some pricing and service improvements, but also have a Plan B ready in case the company balks at what the state wants — and what it's willing to pay for it."This 'ugly pig' may still fly given the other options".
Here's a suggestion, and it comes free of charge - bring the work back "in house", you know, ... like when it used to work properly.
Something rotten in Denmark ...
"Appraisers at Florida's top environmental agency raised sharp questions late last year about the logic behind the $1.34 billion price attached to Gov. Charlie Crist's mammoth land deal with U.S. Sugar Corp."
But it's unclear whether the appraisers at the Department of Environmental Protection ever got satisfactory answers, according to a Palm Beach Post review of more than 2,000 internal e-mails at the agency. In some cases, the questions paralleled objections of critics who say the public is paying an inflated price for the 180,000-acre deal, a keystone of Crist's vision for Everglades restoration."Lobbyist ties, state appraisers' price concerns cloud U.S. Sugar deal".
"More than 10,000 Floridians complained to state agencies about steep increases in the price of gasoline after Hurricane Ike last year. At least two retail stations in North and Central Florida have agreed to settlements of price-gouging allegations for about $6,000. A grab bag of such settlements with small-scale businesses is typical after a disaster." "State probe of gas hikes targets Morgan Stanley over claims of gouging".
Ileana sent her flowers
"U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, has been selected a vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. She was one of four vice presidents selected at the DNC's recent winter meeting. Wasserman Schultz is a rising Democratic star in Congress." "Wasserman Schultz gets national Democratic post [Broward Politics]".
RPOFers stepping aside for Charlie
There's a reason the doltish Mack is the only RPOFer in the race, and that reason has a happy face. For more, see yesterday's "Charlie 'freezing the field'". dKos ran the numbers the other day, and here they are: "FL-Sen: Most candidates unknown; if Crist runs, he wins".
Bill Cotterell shares his thoughts on the Senate race, or lack thereof:
First, Jeb Bush decided not to run, preferring to work with his foundation in Miami on education reform and to help reconstruct the Florida Republican Party in the Obama era. Then, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink disappointed Democrats by saying she wouldn't go for it. Last week, Attorney General Bill McCollum and U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd, D-Monticello, bowed out within a half-hour of each other — saying, like Sink, that they will seek re-election to their current jobs next year."Candidates in short supply for Senate seat".
That leaves Gov. Charlie Crist — with his 67-percent approval ratings, his new bride, his disarming "Hi, I'm Charlie" manner and his reputation for using one job as a springboard upward. National party leaders, needing to keep the Florida seat to deny Obama a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority in the Senate, have been pushing Crist to run but the governor has neither filed his re-election papers nor shown an interest in anything else.
"I'm focused on Florida," is the most Crist will say about his present or future plans.
U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami and state Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, have announced their candidacies. No major Republican has announced, and, with Bush and McCollum out, the putative GOP frontrunner is a case of mistaken identity — U.S. Rep. Connie Mack of Naples, who inherits statewide name recognition and a conservative Republican pedigree from his father, the two-term U.S. Senator.
"The Seminole Tribe of Florida will defend its gambling deal with the state before a House panel today." "Seminole Tribe to defend gambling deal Monday at House panel hearing".
Cuba policy change
Obama's "campaign pledges have Lee and Collier counties' Cuban population - a combined 27,000, according to the U.S. Census - anxious to see if Obama's presidency alters U.S.-Cuban policy." "For Cubans in SW Fla., Obama may mean hope".
"Just a marketing facade"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Florida talks a great game about its government basking in the sunshine when it comes to making public records available. But that's just a marketing facade." "Follow-through is needed to make public meetings, records more accessible".
Other people's money
"With tough economic times putting the brakes on local developers' desire to expand, international investors could help prop up South Florida's commercial real estate market."
Nakheel Hotels, managed by the Dubai government, bought 50 percent of the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel for $375 million. A subsidiary of Japanese investment firm Sumitomo paid $260 million for the Miami Center office tower. Hong Kong-based Swire Properties, which developed most of Brickell Key, paid $41.3 million for 5.5 vacant acres just off Brickell Avenue. And a Mexican company affiliated with the Jose Cuervo Group became partners in 396 Alhambra, a planned $130 million office project in Coral Gables."Foreign investors may help local market".
"Although some groups in Florida -- such as undocumented agricultural workers, students and Haitian refugees -- would be satisfied with piecemeal legislation on visa programs that would help them, they unanimously support a comprehensive legalization program. The pro-immigrant coalition has the support of large Hispanic advocacy groups and community organizers at the grass-roots level. In addition, it has earned the backing of labor unions and businesses." "Florida's immigrants pin hopes on Obama".
Meantime, and "as the economy collapsed last year and many financial workers found themselves unemployed, the dozen U.S. banks now receiving the biggest rescue packages requested visas for tens of thousands of foreign workers to fill high-paying jobs, according to an Associated Press review of visa applications."
The major banks, which have received $150 billion in bailout funds, requested visas for more than 21,800 foreign workers over the past six years for senior vice presidents, corporate lawyers, junior investment analysts and human resources specialists. The average annual salary for those jobs was $90,721, nearly twice the median income for all American households."AP Investigation: Banks look overseas for workers". See also "Bailed-out banks gave jobs to foreigners at U.S. expense".
"'You Can't Get There from Here'"
"Broward County legislators are used to feeling a little left out as an overwhelmingly Democratic delegation in the GOP-dominated Legislature, but now some say the feeling starts before they arrive at the Capitol. Ever since Delta stopped offering direct flights between Florida's capital and its second-largest county, lawmakers and lobbyists have lamented that the Fort Lauderdale-to-Tallahassee travel motto could be 'You Can't Get There from Here' -- at least not without taking a 19-seat propeller plane, making a seven-hour drive, flying directly from Miami or connecting in Atlanta." "Broward lawmakers lament loss of air bridge".
"Mysterious signs suggesting that Oakland Park should oust City Manager John Stunson have been appearing along the roadside lately." "Signs call for ouster of Oakland Park city manager".
"Dining, dancing and disclosing"
George Bennett: "All those federal corruption takedowns have heightened Palm Beach County commissioners' awareness of the state's gift-disclosure law. But commissioners still lag far behind the dining, dancing and disclosing pace set by former Boca Raton mayor and current commission applicant Steven Abrams." "Abrams' gifts give disclosure new meaning".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "When the state's top economic development official visits Clewiston and the Glades region for three days of tours and meetings this week, he shouldn't be surprised if he finds some skepticism and outright hostility mixed with the courtesy the region is famous for delivering." "Glades finally gets a visit, but will Glades get help?".
"Fla. co. finds legendary British warship sunk in 1744".
"Few new shopping centers"
"Few new shopping centers while economy's dropping".
"With two seats open and two other contested races, the face of the Fort Lauderdale commission will soon change." "Plenty of commission candidates but few specifics".
Nearly 200 jobs by 2016
"The La Jolla, Calif.-based Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies opened the doors Saturday to its chemistry and biology laboratories in Port St. Lucie. Scientists there will study a variety of medical conditions such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and AIDS. Officials say the facility is expected to employ nearly 200 people by 2016." "Biotech research institute opens in Florida".