"While most of the nation focused on the stimulus bill winding through Congress, nine representatives introduced a bill calling for an end to the 46-year-old ban on travel to Cuba."
The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 4 would allow American citizens unrestricted travel to Cuba for the first time since 1963. The bill by Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., and eight co-sponsors would also lift limits on travel by Cuban exiles living in the United States. The president would not be able to regulate travel to the island unless an armed conflict or armed danger arises."Bill would drop travel restrictions to Cuba".
"The agency in charge of tourism maintains a call center that is operated outside of the Sunshine State by a company not based in Florida. The out-of-state hotline earned the head of Visit Florida, which contracted for the call center, the wrath of GOP lawmakers scrutinizing state spending during budget meetings today."
Visit Florida is a private, nonprofit corporation that receives state and private money to promote tourism. The corporation received $35 million from the state last year and has come under the governor's Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development for the past decade."Fla. tourism hotline run by out-of-state company".
Lawmakers had cut Visit Florida's advertising spending by $5 million this year, but Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed that cut.
The discovery about the out-of-state contract riled budget chairmen in both the House and the Senate.
"After months of standing in front of crowds chanting 'Drill, baby, drill,' Gov. Charlie Crist stepped in front of a microphone Tuesday to shouts of "Yes We Can."." "Republican Gov. Crist introduces Obama in Florida". See also "Obama visiting Fort Myers, center of state's economic crisis, Tuesday", "In Fort Myers, Obama vows to create jobs, provide foreclosure aid", "Obama to visit center of economic collapse in Florida", "Obama appeals for bipartisan help during stop in Florida", "Obama Pushes Stimulus Package In Fort Myers" and "Obama tickets for Fort Myers appearance gone in 25 minutes".
"Florida Banks Get $164 Million In Bailout Funds So Far". See also "Stimulus Package Could Mean $20 Million For Pasco Projects".
Jebbie's "Health-care reform didn't meet expectations"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board writes today that "[t]he federal economic stimulus plan could bring Florida more than $4 billion in additional Medicaid funding -- welcome news in a state where 3.6 million people lack health insurance and 680,000 might qualify for expanded services through Medicaid."
But Florida officials can't justify spending the money recklessly, or wasting it on pet projects that haven't worked. That means stepping back from the state's failed plan to "reform" Medicaid by forcing participants into private, for-profit plans."Medicaid's failed gamble".
"Back into the red"
"Florida's foundering economy will soon plunge the state budget back into the red, a leading legislator said Monday in warning of more difficult times ahead." "Florida legislator sounds budget alert". See also "Florida's budget outlook continues to get dimmer" and "Budget Shortfall Becoming Sinkhole".
"When the U.S. Senate today approves its version of a massive economic stimulus package, Republican senator Mel Martinez, like most of his Senate and Florida GOP colleagues, won't be supporting it." "Martinez Says He Will Not Vote For Senate Stimulus Bill".
The Tampa Trib editors: "Bypassing A Secret Vote Would Blindside Employers".
"Perhaps his time should be spent lobbying Republicans"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "President Obama visits Fort Myers today to sell his economic stimulus package, and people eager to hear what he has to say lined up early for tickets. Gov. Crist will introduce the president at the event, though perhaps his time should be spent lobbying Republicans in Congress who have been trying to kill the stimulus bill Gov. Crist loves so much because it would help him with the state's budget problem." "What Florida, nation need".
There's an idea
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "A South Florida state senator had a good idea, but legislative leaders didn't take him up on it."
Two weeks ago, Sen. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, wrote to Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, asking that the hearings be spread around the state. "By making the budget process more transparent and more accessible, we will permit many more Floridians to participate in the debate over what to cut, what to preserve and how to pay for the needs of our state.""Tallahassee road trip".
"Lawmakers should take a hard look at their own spending"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Crist and Florida lawmakers are reviewing every item of state spending to find 'savings' that can help eliminate a $2.4 billion budget gap. They are raiding the state's reserve funds and trust accounts. They are cutting serious dollars from schools, courts, transportation, healthcare and social services. "
While they are at it, Gov. Crist and state lawmakers should take a hard look at their own spending."Now boarding: The privileged class". See also "Florida Senate's budget chief J.D. Alexander wants to cut lieutenant governor's security, ground state plane".
Take, for example, the $3.5 million that lawmakers allocate to shuttle a select group of officials around the state, including the governor, Cabinet members, Senate and House leaders and the chief justice of the state Supreme Court. The state keeps six pilots and two planes on hand to take these officials where they need to go. Lawmakers won't have to look hard to find ways to cut expenses in this operation.
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "The lieutenant governor's tab for air travel is outlandish".
Maitland housewife makes Limbaugh proud
"Science of global warming doesn't support the hype".
The State Farm story
Jim Saunders explains it all in "State Farm angers clients, lawmakers".
Blue dog balls
"U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd will fly with President Barack Obama aboard Air Force One when he heads to Fort Myers today for a town hall meeting where he plans to pitch his massive economic stimulus plan." "Rep. Boyd to join President Obama for Fort Myers meeting".
"St. Petersburg political campaigns tap into Facebook, Twitter, blogs".
"Pelosi: Crist and Greer are on our side".
"Broward County Mayor Stacy Ritter and her lobbyist-husband, Russ Klenet"
"'They gave me the creeps,' Broward mayor says of scandal-ridden firm that adorned her Parkland home with furnishings".
"A pair of tax-relief measures passed in the last two years have helped reduce property taxes for Floridians after three decades of steady increases, according to reports presented Tuesday in the state Senate." "Fla. property taxes down in each of last 2 years".
"Florida insurance regulator Kevin McCarty lobbies Congress for help with catastrophe fund".
"Officials say voting today has been problem-free as Fort Lauderdale and Dania Beach hold primaries and voters in Wilton Manors elect a city commissioner." "Elections going smoothly for three Broward cities".
Big of 'em
"Seminole moves to offer ballots in Spanish".
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "If sales taxes were fully and honestly collected from internet sales, estimates suggest some $1 billion would be collected annually in Florida." "Backyard economics".
"Florida legislators routinely delete e-mails after a month to save computer space, which technology experts say isn't necessary given the number of messages the Legislature handles and the relatively low costs of adding storage." "AP: Fla. could expand lawmakers' e-mail space".