Scary: "Florida Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander said he printed out about 500 pages - the portion dealing with economic stimulus money coming to the states - over the weekend. ... Crist's staff is still reviewing the bill, Crist's spokeswoman Erin Isaac said today." "State officials take up reading of epic stimulus bill". See also "Crist, Aides Discuss Federal Stimulus".
"In one fell swoop, the federal government may have turned the dreary school funding situation in Florida from disastrous to merely terrible."
The $789 billion stimulus package that President Obama signed Tuesday is slated to send more than $3 billion to Florida's K-12 public schools over two years, including hundreds of millions of dollars that may patch massive holes in district budgets next year."Funding makes Florida schools' picture less grim".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board on Florida's application for a waiver: "Florida could miss out on $2.4 billion from the stimulus because the state is spending about $600 million less on education than it spent in 2006. The stimulus contains a "maintenance of effort" clause that penalizes states that have reduced overall education spending. The stimulus law, however, also allows the federal education secretary to grant waivers to states 'that have suffered a precipitous decline in financial resources.'"
Florida certainly qualifies. With a fiscal structure based on sales taxes and an economy highly sensitive to construction, the recession has created a more "precipitous decline" here than in many other states. The "maintenance of effort" makes sense on one level. Washington shouldn't reward states that balanced their budgets on the back of education. But there's a basic problem: A rule meant to punish politicians would end up punishing students whose schools already have had budgets cut."Don't punish the students for Tallahassee's behavior".
Gov. Crist is optimistic that Florida will get a waiver. Sens. Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez have written Education Secretary Arne Duncan, asking him to help Florida out. There's more than a little irony in the request; Sen. Martinez voted against the stimulus, and not a single member of Gov. Crist's party voted for it in the House.
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Crist and the Legislature should act as if the money from the stimulus bill is temporary, since it is. Unfortunately, the governor is acting as if the money will be permanent."
Even before he knows that the federal government will grant a waiver and let education money flow to Florida, Gov. Crist is putting his budget in turnaround before releasing it Friday. Out will be any serious budget cuts. Out will be any discussion of new revenue. In will be the lyrics to Happy Days Are Here Again, and talk of a new tax-cut proposal in 2010, when the governor is on the ballot for reelection or election to the Senate."Pretend money isn't coming".
Q poll details
"The survey by Quinnipiac (Conn.) University released Wednesday showed two-thirds approved of the way Crist is handling his job as governor in the face of a sour economy and nearly twice as many wanted him to seek re-election." "Poll shows public wants Crist to seek re-election".
More from Quinnipiac:
Florida voters support 59 - 36 percent additional legalized gambling to finance education and to avoid additional budget cuts, with support across the political spectrum.The complete poll: "February 18, 2009 - Florida's Crist Has Pick Of Gov. Or Senate Race, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Voters Back Seminole Casino Plan" ("From February 11 - 16, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,001 Florida voters with a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.")
By a larger 63 - 33 percent margin voters want the State legislature to approve a deal between Crist and the Seminole Indian tribe for Las Vegas style casinos that would reap money for the state treasury.
"Gov. Crist has effectively frozen both the Governor's race and the Senate race. All Republicans are standing back and waiting to see which office he will seek before deciding about their candidacies since no one in their right mind will want to take him on," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
"On the Democratic side, those who jumped into the Senate race assuming Crist would seek a second term in Tallahassee are getting nervous," Brown added.
"If Crist runs for re-election, Connie Mack is way ahead of the rest of the field for the Republican Senate nomination. The Democratic field is much more muddled. What's surprising is that Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio is in the running. Much of her support comes from widespread name recognition in the Tampa Bay area, but she may also benefit from being the only woman potentially in the race. Interestingly, her 16 percent in the Democratic primary is almost exactly what Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink received in a Quinnipiac University poll January 21."
In the GOP primary matchup without Crist, Mack leads with 34 percent, three times the 11 percent for U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan. Former State House Speakers Marco Rubio and Allan Bense get 6 and 4 percent respectively.
"President Barack Obama has vowed to change the harsh partisan tone of Washington, but some Florida Republicans are planning their exit strategies."
- "Adam Putnam, a political wunderkind elected in 2001 at 26 who stepped off the leadership path and launched a bid this month for state agriculture commissioner. The son of central Florida citrus and cattle farmers says farming is in his blood, though he acknowledged the frustrations of toiling in the minority on Capitol Hill. ""Republicans in Washington flee back to Florida".
- "Sen. Mel Martinez is quitting after only one term, a rare short-timer in a chamber that often serves as a lifetime perch. With only six years of seniority between them, U.S. Reps. Connie Mack and Vern Buchanan are prepared to risk losing their southwest Florida districts for the chance to wield more power from Martinez's Senate seat."
"They can’t say the
"They can’t say the
T-word in the 2009 legislative session, but two top Democratic and Republican Senate leaders agreed Tuesday on a polite euphemism for taxes as Florida lawmakers search for solutions to the state’s revenue shortages. " "Florida lawmakers hunt for ways to spur revenue growth".
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board nails Florida's brain dead RPOFers in DC: "The nation faces its most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression, and Florida has been hit particularly hard. The state's unemployment rate, at more than 8 percent and rising, is higher than the nation's. We trail only California in the rate of home foreclosures. And Florida's state budget shortfall is more than $5 billion. Yet Tampa Bay's Republican U.S. House members have not come to the rescue."
U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, Ginny Brown-Waite of Brooksville, Adam Putnam of Bartow and C.W. Bill Young of Indian Shores are good at voting no. ... (Democrat Kathy Castor of Tampa voted for all of the relief packages except for the original TARP bill)."'No' is no solution".
Where are the Republicans' proposals? Can they offer anything beyond more tax cuts? Will Tampa Bay Republicans in Congress be part of the solution in Washington and help Floridians struggling to hold on to their homes and jobs, or will they just keep saying no?
As the RPOFers bloviate: "More than 500,000 people are losing their jobs every month. Companies are failing left and right. Thousands of homeowners are facing foreclosure every day. A reasonable person might ask: Are we in a depression?" "The D word".
"Some public university students could see their tuition more than double by 2013 if a proposal to be discussed Wednesday by a Florida Senate committee passes legislative muster."
The resident undergraduate tuition base cost is $82 per credit, or about $2,460 for a full 30-credit year."Tuition at Florida's public universities could rise sharply". See also "Florida university tuition could rise from $82 to $211 per credit hour".
That could increase to $211 or more per credit -- $6,323 for a full year -- by 2013, according to a Senate analysis of the proposed tuition plan released Tuesday.
Under the plan, lawmakers would still set base tuition increases, but individual university boards of trustees could increase that by as much as 15 percent annually until they reach the national average of resident tuition.
FairDistrictsFlorida.org "has launched a petition drive to amend the state constitution and prohibit the drawing of districts that 'favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party.' The petitions require legislative and congressional districts to be compact and contiguous, using existing city, county and geographic boundaries whenever feasible. They also have language that protects minority representation." "Need for fair districts transcends partisanship"
"State Sen. Mike Fasano wants to eliminate a quirk in state law that can cause property taxes to rise even as home values drop. The Save Our Homes program keeps taxes low on primary homes by keeping tax assessments of those properties from rising more than 3 percent annually. That's a bonus for homeowners during boom years when property values can experience double-digit increases. Here's the rub: The program guarantees a rise in assessments, even when the market value of a home falls." "Crist, Fasano: Property Tax System Flawed".
"An e-mail some considered racist"? "Some"?
"Former Hillsborough County Republican Party official Carol Carter apologized to the party in a brief speech Tuesday night for sending an e-mail some considered racist. ... Even as she apologized, Carter put part of the blame for the incident on local Republicans who forwarded the e-mail to reporters. ... Others defend Carter, a veteran party worker and donor, saying she should not leave her post over what they call a minor matter."
And to top off the meeting, "some 200 party members heard a presentation by John Davis, director of minority outreach for the state Republican Party, who said his job is to help the party 'become more diverse, get more minorities involved.'" "County GOP Gets Apology".
"Opening statements are scheduled for the third trial of six Miami men accused of plotting to destroy Chicago's Sears Tower and bomb FBI offices. The so-called 'Liberty City Six' are accused of plotting terror attacks with an FBI informant they thought was an al-Qaida operative. Two trials ended in hung juries, with a seventh man acquitted after the first trial. " "Opening statements set for terror retrial".
Background: "After All, He Is Black".
"A company run by R. Allen Stanford gave U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., nearly $46,000 in campaign contributions through its political-action committee and employees -- the highest total of any member of Congress, according to a new watchdog report."
Other Florida lawmakers benefited from Stanford Financial Group, including U.S. Reps. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami ($3,500); Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota ($2,500); Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton ($2,500); Adam Putnam, R-Bartow ($2,500); and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami ($2,000)."Financier gave campaign cash to Sen. Bill Nelson, others".
"A Tampa Bay area lawmaker has filed legislation that could stall or even stop Florida from sealing its historic deal with U.S. Sugar to purchase the Everglades for restoration."
Gov. Charlie Crist heavily promoted the $1.35 billion purchase of 180,000 acres in the Everglades, which would open the way to massive ecological restoration of the area."Lawmaker Fights U.S. Sugar Deal".
The deal-in-progress often is described in shorthand as a state purchase. In reality, the South Florida Water Management District is buying the land, using property tax dollars from residents under the district's jurisdiction.
State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, said he wants to let affected taxpayers decide whether the district can spend their tax dollars on the Everglades purchase. An outspoken critic of the deal's terms, he said the proposal convinced him that all such deals by water management districts ought to go to local referendum, which is what his bill would require.
"Should Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio run for Senate?"
Adam Smith: "She's a popular big-city mayor from Florida's most important political region. But she can't stand partisan politics and is a stranger to most Floridians."
Smith gives several reasons she should run:
1. Tampa Bay. Never underestimate the importance of running from the Tampa Bay area, home to nearly one in four votes in both the Democratic primary and the general election. Just being well-known in Florida's biggest media market automatically gives Iorio, 49, a name recognition advantage worth millions of dollars.Some factors weighing against a run (pay particular attention to #2 below, which is her greatest handicap):
2. The field. The race features no political giant in either party (though speculation is growing that Charlie Crist may run). ...
3. Profile. She's smart, funny and exudes competence. And she's a woman. "The reason Pam Iorio should run is because she'd win,'' said Derek Newton, a Democratic consultant in Miami. ...
4. Timing. A public servant since 1985, Iorio will be out of a job in 2011 because of term limits. Open U.S. Senate seats tend to be once in a lifetime opportunities, especially a race with a relatively weak field like this one may have.
1. The daunting campaign. Iorio was 26 the last time she had a seriously tough campaign. She has never shown a stomach for a bruising partisan race. ..."Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio for Senate? Here's why and why not". See also "In Q-poll, Crist leads 2 fields, Iorio impressive".
2. No network. Iorio's nonpartisanship may be admirable and helpful in a general election, but it won't help in the primary that she has rarely lifted a finger to help other Democrats.
She never gave money to Kathy Castor, Alex Sink, Bill McBride, John Kerry, Bill Nelson or Barack Obama. She has never courted Democratic activists in South Florida or interest groups in Tallahassee, and she knows few significant Democratic fundraisers.
Launching a statewide campaign when almost no party insiders and activists know you, and still fewer owe you any favors, is no easy task. ...
4. Wrong job. Iorio is by nature a chief executive, not a legislator.
"Broward ranks fifth nationwide in the number of people facing foreclosure, with 25.12 percent of mortgage debt either delinquent or near default, according to fourth-quarter 2008 data from Moody's Economy.com. Palm Beach County is 19th at 18.34 percent." "South Florida at forefront of foreclosure crisis".
"An advisory council of local businesses will be established to offer advice on how the recession is affecting them and to report on whether federal aid is reaching them, U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, announced Monday." "Rep. Ron Klein wants to form local business council".
We can do better than this
"The base has been singled out by PETA for using live animals when training medics for traumatic combat injuries." "PETA takes on Hurlburt".
"Hurricanes, drought, crop diseases and hard times have cut farm earnings nearly in half, but agriculture remains a bright spot in Florida's economic outlook, Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson said Tuesday." "Bronson: Agriculture economic 'bright spot'".
No L ... T?
The South Florida Sun Sentinel editorial board: "Put aside politics, put aside the personalities and simply ask what's best for the state. If you do, you'll find yourself asking if Florida really needs the lieutenant governor post — or at least at its present price tag.". "No need for Lt. Governor in Florida".
"Technology leaps beyond Florida public records laws".
A slow start
"Rep. Scott Plakon wants to make your gun-shaped cigarette lighter illegal. The Longwood Republican, a freshman, is pushing to ban novelty lighters that resemble guns, toys, cartoon characters, musical instruments or even Coke cans. His intent: to keep them out of the hands of young children who might accidentally start fires." "Lighters shouldn't look like toys, lawmaker proposes".
The other Crist
"Republican state Sen. Victor Crist, who has represented northern Hillsborough County in the Legislature for nearly 17 years, says he is running to represent the same area on the county commission. But Crist doesn't know yet whether he will run in 2010 or have to wait until 2012. He is seeking the District 2 seat currently held by Commission Chairman Ken Hagan." "Sen. Crist To Run For Hagan's County Commission Seat".
The Miami Herald editorial board seems to have a problem with the democratic process: "Chávez's victory, Venezuela's loss".
"State budget cuts may force FAU to shutter its Women's Studies Center and suspend its master's degree program in women's studies." "Women's studies could be cut at FAU".