"Millions of special-interest campaign dollars have been used -- legally -- by Florida lawmakers for expensive meals, travel and support of candidates they like."
In the latest election cycle, dozens of Florida legislators raked in $6 million in special-interest campaign money and spent a good deal of it on themselves for meals, rental cars, plane trips and hotels."Florida lawmakers feed on special-interest money".
Some lawmakers are feeding at the trough of contributors, enjoying expensive dinners at upscale restaurants with donors' money at a time when one in 10 Floridians are on food stamps. Others are churning cash from one political committee to another, using it to finance direct contributions and attack ads for other candidates, thereby strengthening their own clout in a virtually untraceable shell game.
All of this is legal. Florida law bans legislators from accepting more than $500 from each donor who contributes to their individual campaign accounts.
But there is no limit on the amount of cash that lawmakers can collect from all manner of special interests in separate fundraising committees that the lawmakers create to advance broadly defined public purposes, such as getting one another reelected.
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "It's a spring ritual in the Florida Legislature -- a drizzle of proposed exemptions to the public records law, all of them slippery, most of them unnecessary, some of them downright hysterical (not in the funny sense)." "Lawmakers seek hiding places".
"A lousy show of leadership"
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "on Wednesday, Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami, was removed as chairman of the House Criminal and Civil Justice Policy Council after he crossed Speaker Larry Cretul over a bill to limit lawyer fees."
It's apparent that if you're not a sheep — as former Speaker Johnnie Byrd infamously alluded to fellow House members in 2004 — you get a political shearing."Tut, tut, lawmakers".
With issues as grave and as seemingly resistant to solution as they are just now, leadership should be embracing independent, creative, confident decision-making and welcome the cross pollination of ideas from both parties.
That was a lousy show of leadership on the part of Mr. Cretul, even if he kind of liked the way it felt to throw his new-found weight around.
"Sometimes it's not easy to admit that you live in Florida."
Carl Hiassen: "Although such a law might thin the dating pool in certain counties,"
it should ultimately serve to protect household pets and domestic livestock, which evidently are at far greater risk than most of us had imagined."Strange doings down on the farm".
The cry for justice first arose from the small Panhandle community of Mossy Head, where in 2006 a 48-year-old man was suspected of abducting a neighbor family's pet goat and accidentally strangling it with its collar during a sex act.
I wish I were making this up, but the story is true.
- "Advocates are urging the state to make it easier for felons to have their civil rights restored." "Florida urged to change rights-restoration rules for felons".
- "Legislators call them shell bills, blank slates to be filled in later in the legislative session." "Storm clouds are on the horizon for state's Sunshine law".
- "Moved by the story of a terrorized local woman, Tampa Bay area state legislators are pushing to increase legal protections for victims of abuse or harassment by someone they dated." "Officials Aim To Protect Daters".
- "Trouble accessing records can prevent Florida foster children from graduating from high school, finding a job -- or learning of their past. " "Clarification of law sought over foster children's records".
- "52 bills before Legislature this session seek to close access to various records".
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "A power company CEO and the head of a leading environmental organization will never agree on everything, but on one essential element of Florida's future we are absolutely united: the need to bring more solar energy to the state." "The Sunshine State Is Going Solar".
Quality of press skits to diminish
The state of journalism:
As the Florida Legislature begins its 2009 session - a session that will see budget cuts and decisions affecting everything from education to health care - the newspaper corps covering state government has shrunk to its smallest level in recent memory."Press Corps Dwindling".
No one keeps exact numbers, but insiders say the number of full-time Tallahassee beat reporters has declined by half or more in the past three to four years.
Getting ready to rumble
"Court clerks and judges led by Orange-Osceola Chief Judge Belvin Perry are squaring off in Tallahassee over a push to strip the clerks of their main cash cow — court fees and fines they collect — to help shore up the court system." "Courts vs. clerks".
Under their noses
Aaron Deslatte: "So far, they've not looked into travel costs in the Governor's Office — remember Gov. Charlie Crist's $430,000 'economic-development trip' to Europe last summer — or the $425,000 worth of state plane rides racked up by Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp" "Some savings are right under legislators' noses".
Surely they aren't suggesting ...
... that we buy things made ... you know ... stateside?
The Tampa Trib editors this morning: "Many purchases are from sources so distant that our dollars can't find their way back to this community. But if we buy locally, the money is recycled immediately in paychecks, taxes, advertising, banking, insurance, real estate and countless other ways that strengthen the local economy." "Give The Mouse A Furlough And Shop Closer To Home".
Heck, if we bought local made stuff, what would Wal Mart (China's vendor of choice for its slave labor products), Mitsubishi and the rest of those fine folks do?
Oops! Our mistake, the editors don't seem to care whether you buy American made products; rather, they just want you to buy from local vendors.
The commies are a comin'
"Florida school districts, faced with crushing health-care costs, are ready to try a new course of treatment for their employees: bringing in their own doctors and opening their own primary-care clinics. Government agencies statewide are considering doing the same." "Health-care clinics for government workers may save time, money".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "It's bad enough the Florida Legislature continues to crank out public-records exemptions, those little waivers to the state's government-in-the-sunshine laws that ultimately make public information just a little more difficult to obtain." "Public notices shouldn't be kept on the down-low".
"A Democrat has stepped up to run for commissioner of agriculture and consumer services: former state Rep. Rick Minton of Fort Pierce, who comes from a long line of citrus and cattle farmers. Republicans in the race include U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam of Bartow, state Sen. Carey Baker of Eustis, and state Rep. Marty Bowen of Haines City." "Democrat plows into agriculture chief race".
Adam Smith asks: "Where's the love for Charlie Crist, Jeb?".
Uppity public employees
Thomas: "School principal Trevor Honohan created quite a stir with the most reasonable of acts."
Given the reluctance of public officials to pay for public schools, he asked the public to chip in. His request came in a letter sent to parents of [Orange County's] Audubon Park Elementary students."Don't discount Audubon principal's plea for donations".
"I will not settle for budget cuts that will rip apart the foundation that has been set at Audubon Park Elementary School," he wrote. "Hard working teachers that we value and love will be unemployed. There is only one solution and it begins with us all. It is time to pay for what we don't have now; otherwise we will pay for what we didn't have later."
He skipped the bake sale and went right for the $500 checks. That was the amount suggested for each child in the school, an amount that might buy you a couple of weeks at a top prep school. He would throw in the first $1,000 to cover his two kids. If everybody who got a letter tossed money in the hat, eight teachers would keep their jobs.
Its a business thing
"Palm Beach County's system for selecting its bond underwriters is political, lucrative and unusual." "Palm Beach County's bonds system brazenly political, observers say".
"A half-baked Cuba policy that demands clarification"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Congress took a step toward improving U.S. policy on Cuba last week, which is good, but lawmakers sure went about it in a sneaky way. The substance of the change will be welcomed by most exile families who want to visit their relatives on the island more often. However, the legislative maneuvering that produced the change allows members of Congress to hide their political intent behind the veil of process. The result is contrived and confusing, a half-baked Cuba policy that demands clarification." "New Cuba policy . . . another fine mess".
"Belle Glade candidate charged with aggravated assault on election night speaks out".
What's the vig?
"Nearly two-thirds of the state's clerks of court have contracts with a collections vendor who is married to the clerks' association president." "Clerk contracts given association head's wife".
"As the chairman of a legislative committee reviewing the state’s agreement on gambling with the Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida, Bradenton’s Rep. Bill Galvano plays a crucial role in this year’s budget debate. The stakes? An estimated $2.5 billion or more in recurring revenue over 25 years that the state, facing declining revenues and attempting to plug a gaping hole in its budget this year, desperately needs." "BH: Galvano at fulcrum of budget debate".
Let them eat cake
"State budget cuts are giving University of Florida undergraduates a sneak preview of the future. And it's a future with fewer of them around." "Undergraduate uproar at UF".
"Rep. Kosmas to appear today in Ponce Inlet".
"The former Largo city manager who was fired after her plans to have a sex change became public is a finalist for the city manager's job in Lake Worth." "Transsexual city manager finalist for new job".