"Even for the normally effervescent Charlie Crist, hope seems to be in short supply. At least in the Florida Legislature."
Days into a two-month session, many of the governor's top policy proposals are clinging to life support, victims of a tight budget and a shifting political landscape."In a Legislature firmly controlled by his own party, the Republican governor has struggled to find even modest support for an initiative to cap automobile pollution. His call for fees on water bottlers, and higher driving and vehicle-registration charges and court fees, lack legislative sponsors."
And his $66.5 billion budget, built on $4.7 billion in federal stimulus funds, is drawing the ire of Republicans worried about what will happen in three years when the money runs out."Tight budget puts Crist's agenda on life support".
"Lawmakers return today for the second week of the 60-day session and take on the increasingly contentious plan to buy U.S. Sugar land near the Everglades. The Joint Legislative Committee on Everglades Oversight will get a 4 p.m. update on Gov. Charlie Crist's plan to buy the land for $1.34 billion." "As Week 2 starts, legislators to look at sugar deal and Citizens".
Courtesy of the Milton Friedman crowd
"More ER visits, fewer trips to the doctor's office. More aspirin, fewer echocardiograms."
And many people are afraid to miss work for healthcare because they fear it might cost them their jobs."Consumers curb medical treatment to save money".
That's the anecdotal evidence from several dozen healthcare providers in South Florida about how the deepening recession is effecting treatment.
While it has been well-publicized that many people are losing health insurance when they lose their jobs, doctors and hospital leaders have been surprised about how many who still have coverage are scrimping on care because they can't afford the co-pays or time away from work.
Love, American Style
"Randy Means, a spokesman for Orange-Osceola State Attorney Lawson Lamar, said the grand jury did not indict anyone because none of the vendors interviewed said they were strong-armed. They just 'felt' they 'needed' to contribute, he said" "Expressway Authority 'unethical' in chasing political donations, expert says".
"For years, parents, students and teachers have complained that the time and money put toward the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test isn't worth the headache or the elbow grease. Now, many see the budget troubles facing the state -- and talk of changes in national testing requirements -- as a good excuse to reconsider the FCAT's importance." "Budget, new president revive FCAT debate".
Runnin' government like a business
"In January 2007, Medicare shut down the businesses of 18 medical equipment suppliers in Miami-Dade County after investigators told the federal agency that the companies were shams."
But when Medicare heard their appeals, the operators were quickly reinstated -- only to be indicted later that year for submitting more than $10 million in phony claims to the very agency that had let them back in business, court records show."Lax scrutiny allowed Medicare fraud to flourish".
Raw political courage
"A push to change the way the state figures out who is eligible for unemployment benefits — and how much those beneficiaries get — could bring the state hundreds of millions of additional dollars in federal stimulus money."
But some lawmakers also are cautious about the changes, noting they could eventually boost the tax on businesses used to pay for the benefits when the federal money is gone. ..."The potential for increased taxes comes from the way Florida and many states fund unemployment benefits. Businesses in Florida pay taxes into a trust fund that then pays for the benefits. If the fund’s balance gets low enough, it automatically triggers an increase in the rates businesses pay."
Crist, who strongly supported the stimulus package, dodged repeated questions last week about whether the state should go after the additional $444 million in unemployment benefits that would come from making the changes.
“I want to get as much help as we can for our people,” Crist said.
Modernization would increase the benefits Florida would pay to the unemployed, and could cost the state up to $226 million on top of the federal funding, though the plan being pursued by supporters right now is far less expensive."Florida legislators cautious about taking stimulus money for jobless".
Currently state law requires a person’s eligibility to be determined and his or her benefits to be calculated based on payroll information in the first four of the five most recently completed financial quarters. So the state would, for a person applying for benefits on Monday, calculate benefits based on that person’s earnings from October 2007 through September 2008.
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Legislators need to stop the decline of the space industry in Florida". The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "Space program needs a new map".
"Desperate for money sources, Florida lawmakers talk of possibly taking funds from families' prepaid college tuition program. That won't happen if the fund's chairman has anything to say about it." "Tapping college fund is frowned upon".
A change in time ...
"During a heated 2000 Democratic primary, challenger Addie Greene blasted Palm Beach County Commissioner Maude Ford Lee for planning to leave office early and allowing a Republican governor (Jeb Bush) to appoint her successor in heavily Democratic, minority-dominated District 7. ... "
"Nine years later, Greene is planning to resign only a few months into her third term. That will allow a Republican governor (Charlie Crist) to appoint her replacement through November 2010." "Greene's plans recall scenario she denounced in 2000 race".
On the net
Tom Blackburn: "In the past week I have been reading the stuff that is going to replace old-fashioned newspapers, and I am getting dumber by the hour. You have to move tons of dirt to find a nugget in what is called the Net or the Blogosphere. " "4 score & 7 yrs ago r frs...".
"Bill Cotterell: Downtown could change as state unloads property".
"Huge favors for developers at nasty expense to the public"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "Last April, Florida was home to 18.8 million people. Next month, the forecasters predict, the state will be home to -- 18.8 million people."
That's zero-growth for the first time since the state began estimating population in the middle of the last century. Demographers say Florida should expect no more than 1 percent growth during the next four years."Economy's no excuse to give developers free pass".
Population growth is the engine that drives the state's economy. Seeing that engine stalled seems to have sent several legislators into a panic, unless that is, they're not panicked at all but merely taking advantage of anxious times to press huge favors for developers at nasty expense to the public.
"Come on, shooting a duck dead, with a bow and arrow? What could inspire such cruelty toward a defenseless creature? " "It's a sick soul who'd shoot arrows through a duck, even an ugly one".
All of that and nothing
The Miami Herald editorial board: "You can't blame the people at the Swiss company, Nestle, for being just a little bit confused at the strange state of politics and business in Florida."
"Just a few years ago, the state was putting on a full-court press to get Nestle Waters of North America to build a plant in rural Madison County and take as much water as it wanted from a cold-water spring in a state park. For free, of course. As a sweetener, the state would throw in tax incentives worth millions. Now under a new governor, Charlie Crist, Florida wants to impose a 6-cents-per-gallon tax on bottled water." "Times are tough, no more freebies".