Our digest and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.
"Florida Republican Party circles are hearing increasing talk of conservative dissatisfaction with Gov. Charlie Crist, and a possible primary challenge if he runs for the U.S. Senate next year."
Party figures say a primary challenge is more likely if Crist switches offices, running next year for the Senate instead of re-election as governor."Crist Facing Conservative Rebellion".
"In Tallahassee, there's a conservative Republican Legislature to balance the governor," noted Tony DiMatteo, former Pinellas County Republican chairman, who has pronounced himself disillusioned with his county's favorite son governor.
The talk of a primary challenge to Crist focuses on individuals including former state House speakers Marco Rubio and Allan Bense.
Rubio has formed an exploratory Senate campaign committee and issues veiled criticism of Crist, but won't say whether he would run against him in a primary. Bense says he's out of politics, at least for the moment.
Florida, the knuckle-dragger state
"State Sen Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville has quietly filed legislation that would change the way Florida schools teach Charles Darwin's theory of evolution."
And though it has yet to have its first hearing, the bill has the science community is up in arms. ..."Evolution Bill Quietly Filed In State Senate".
The Florida Academy of Science says the bill "leaves the door open for the introduction in the public school curriculum of nonscientific and covertly religious doctrines."
"The budget dance has started"
"After dire warnings, Florida senators have drawn up initial budget proposals that would shield public schools from massive cuts next year -- but chop funding for a wide range of programs."
The Senate proposals rely on money the state might not even get -- and the House indicated Thursday that its budget proposal probably won't match the Senate's plan."Senate juggles to help schools".
"We've got our work cut out for us," said Rep. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican who oversees the schools budget in the House.
With details of the initial Senate proposals surfacing during the past two days, leaders of health- and human-services programs also are bracing for cuts as lawmakers try to plug a roughly $3 billion budget hole.
As an example, agencies that serve people with developmental disabilities could lose millions of dollars after also sustaining budget cuts this year.
"The philosophical rift between the House and Senate grew wider Thursday as both chambers worked on competing plans to deal with a $6 billion budget shortfall." "Florida House, Senate at odds over budget".
Relax ... we don't have an intangibles tax
"In a gruesome budget year, who's first in line for the few spare dollars available - Florida's schoolchildren or its poorest and frailest residents? Hospitals versus high schools. Foster kids versus Advanced Placement students. Those are the kinds of funding choices that some lawmakers complain they are facing as they work to plug a $6 billion hole in the state budget, of which schools and health care claim the largest share." "Budget Reality: Some Will Suffer".
"Sen. Al Lawson's attempt to exempt $20 from the legislative gift ban went down in flames at its first committee stop Thursday. Lawson said the four-year-old ban has caused the city of Tallahassee to lose millions in catering and restaurant income." "$20 gift ban exemption fails". See also "No Such Thing As Free Lunch For Fla. Lawmakers".
"874,000 were jobless last month"
"Another 75,000 Floridians lost jobs in February as the ranks of the state's unemployed swelled to its highest number in 33 years."
The Florida unemployment rate shot up to 9.4 percent in February, its highest since 1976 when an inflationary economy helped Democrat Jimmy Carter unseat Republican President Gerald Ford."Another 75,000 workers lose their jobs in Fla.". See also "Fla. jobless rate hits 9.4 percent".
The Agency for Workforce Innovation said Friday that 874,000 were jobless last month, which figures to almost one of 10 eligible workers in Florida.
"2009 Legislature roundup".
Stop the gerrymandering
"Groups push to end gerrymandering in state".
$8 an hour
"If passed, the legislation would trump a Florida Supreme Court decision last October that struck down the cap on lawyer fees."
The Supreme Court decision last fall was in the case of a nurse who was injured lifting a patient at a nursing home. Her lawyer helped her win $3,344 in lost wages and medical expenses after her initial claim was denied."Bill Would Restore Fee Cap For Lawyers in Workers' Comp Cases".
The law, though, limited his fee to about $8 an hour while the insurance company's lawyers were paid about $150 an hour.
"Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum upped the financial and political stakes of his campaign against Internet sex crime, urging Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink Thursday to greenlight another $975,000 in television spots under a no-bid contract with his former campaign consultant."
McCollum has already dropped about $1.4 million in state funds on public service ads about on-line predators, and he asked for Sink's ''continued support.'' She said she backs the message, not the method. ..."Florida attorney general goes on offense about name-building ads". See also "Alex Sink, Bill McCollum dispute may be prelude of future campaign fights".
The ad, which has aired in South and North Florida, is now slated to run for five weeks in Tampa, Orlando, Sarasota and Fort Myers. That keeps McCollum in the public eye while he decides whether to seek re-election or a higher office.
McCollum is likely to face Republican rivals in an open governor's race -- possibly former House Speaker Marco Rubio of Miami and U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan of Sarasota.
See you in Havana
"The new travel rules have led to a flurry of interest among local Cubans, according to the three travel agencies in the Orlando area that are authorized to book charter flights to Cuba." "Some Cubans embrace easier rules for family visits".
"Passing a bill like this is cheap ... on many levels"
Scott Maxwell: "This is a law that would force women who want an abortion in the first trimester to get an ultrasound and then look at the fetus -- or fill out a form and sign a waiver, saying they refused to look. It also demands that they be given 'a description of the fetus, including a description of the various stages of development.'"
Their hope is that, if you force a woman to stare at an image of her fetus — and to hear details about how the dot in her womb might one day have arms and feet, fingers and toes — she might be traumatized into changing her mind at the last moment.And where's the Peoples Governor on this latest outrage from the "values" crowd?
Even if it means further traumatizing victims of rape or incest — which this would.
Crist, however, has played this one close to the vest. His office could not provide details Thursday about where he stands on the issue. And last year, he avoided taking a stance during the debate."Abortion foes launch stealth attack on choice".
That's our Charlie.
"Few things go untouched as legislators and agencies offer up ideas on how to whittle the state's $3 billion budget deficit." "Florida lawmakers pinching pennies".
"Local Telephone Company Choice and Protection Act."
The Miami Herald editorial board: "When politicians introduce new legislation, the first opportunity for truth or deception comes when they give their bill proposals a name. So it is with a couple of bills quickly moving toward passage in the House and Senate that would reduce oversight of local telephone companies. The legislation is entitled, 'Consumer Choice and Protection Act.' A more-appropriate name for the bills would be the `Local Telephone Company Choice and Protection Act.'" "Less protection for phone customers".
"Former House Speaker John Thrasher said Thursday he likely will run in 2010 for a seat that will be vacated by state Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville." "Former speaker of House weighs 2010 Senate bid".
At the trough
"If Central Florida gets $2.7B, where will it go?".
"SunRail's backers plan to bring U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D- Jacksonville, to the state Capitol next week to step up the lobbying push for Central Florida's $1.2 billion commuter rail project. But the senator standing in the way of the bill at the moment said Thursday there was only a "50-50 chance, probably less" his committee would take up the bill next week." "Senate budget includes nearly $600 million in fees".
Back to work
"Grand jury investigating Ray Sansom resumes its work".
King [of the] Air
"The Florida Senate's budget would sell the state's King Air plane used extensively by Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, downsizing the executive air fleet to one jet reserved primarily for Gov. Charlie Crist's use." "Florida may sell Kottkamp's favorite plane".
"State Attorney Willie Meggs said Thursday the grand jury investigating former House Speaker Ray Sansom's dealings with a Panhandle college is 'making progress' and that he will be ready to call a series of interesting witnesses in three weeks." "State Attorney: Grand jury is 'making progress' in Ray Sansom investigation".
Possible rate increases
"State CFO: Expect huge insurance rate hikes if major hurricane hits".
"Crafting a new deal"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Fortunately, even the often delusionally optimistic Gov. Crist has acknowledged that the U.S. Sugar deal is too expensive. Crafting a new deal will be more complicated, but it's the only option to get land for Everglades restoration." "Reality on U.S. Sugar deal".
"House Democrats are calling out House Speaker Larry Cretul over his chamber's reluctance to take $1 billion in federal economic stimulus money intended to expand unemployment benefits for laid-off workers." "Dems call out House speaker on unemployment bucks".
The The St. Petersburg Times editorial board agrees: "Florida's economy is in dire straits, and the state's unemployment rate is at 8.6 percent and climbing. Yet the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature may leave behind more than $1 billion in federal help to extend unemployment benefits because the state would have to contribute some modest money. This is incredibly shortsighted, and it needlessly makes life more difficult for jobless Floridians who could use a little more help." "Jobless need the help".
Any day now
"Florida will learn within the next couple of weeks whether the federal government will release billions of stimulus dollars for the state's public schools, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Thursday." "Education chief expects decision on stimulus money for Florida soon".
Blah, blah, blah ...
"Florida's family friendly image is No. 1".
"A U.S. Senate budget panel recommended Thursday that the space shuttle should be allowed to fly beyond its scheduled retirement in 2010 -- a proposal that directly contradicts a recent White House plan to mothball the shuttle next year." "Senate Budget Committee wants to keep shuttle flying".
Them darned minorities
"A Central Florida appellate judge who retired in January has blasted Gov. Charlie Crist for refusing to name a replacement until he gets more minority candidates. In a letter to Crist's general counsel Thursday, former Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Robert J. Pleus of Windermere wrote that the governor's refusal to name a replacement was backing up the court dockets and damaging the justice system." "Retired judge rips Crist for delay in filling seat".
Veterans go to school
"Florida's universities have just five months left to prepare for a crush of veterans expected to enroll in college courses under the new multi-billion dollar GI Bill." "Florida colleges and universities brace for influx of veterans".