"Crist tailgated and watched this year's Super Bowl in Tampa, then boarded a 10-seat corporate jet the next morning for a quick trip back to Tallahassee, his schedule shows. He flew courtesy of Dr. Steven M. Scott of Boca Raton, founder of a large HMO and a hospital physicians network."
"Crist regularly flies on the private jets of wealthy businessmen, the Sun Sentinel found, but the governor won't disclose the details."
During the past two years, Crist's calendar shows about 100 occasions when he was scheduled to fly in or out of private air terminals to get to the capital, concerts, dinners, sporting events, political appearances and stays in St. Petersburg and South Florida."Who buys when Gov. Charlie Crist flies? He's not saying". See also "Who pays when Gov. Crist flies?". Related: "Governor cleared in 2001 flight flap".
Crist's office would not reveal who paid for specific flights or answer questions about them, despite the governor's vow of transparency when he took office. "Our constitution requires that our government be open and transparent," Crist said in his January 2007 inaugural address. "And under my administration it will be like never before."
Years ago, as a state senator, Crist took aim at then-Gov. Lawton Chiles for accepting about 30 flights on private jets to watch football games or go turkey hunting. Chiles later reimbursed the planes' owners more than $7,000. "The whole thing smells," Crist said at the time, calling for elected officials to fully disclose private flights.
"Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz disclosed on Saturday that she endured seven major surgeries last year, including removal of a malignant tumor, to win a bout against breast cancer." "Wasserman Schultz says she's a breast cancer survivor". See also "U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz reveals cancer battle".
"Conflict of influence"
Some might call this simple corruption:
The unlimited special-interest cash streaming into Florida legislators' political accounts has enriched a small group of influential consultants who received $19.5 million from political committees and campaigns in the 2008 election cycle."Florida Legislature's conflict of influence: Consultants serve two masters".
The torrent of money flowing through the Capitol has also fueled an industry of consultants who lobby.
Of the 60 highest-paid consultants for lawmakers' committees, at least 12 work as lobbyists, according to a Herald/Times analysis. The consultant-lobbyists are hired by corporations to influence the same legislators who pay them for political help.
This circular network ties together special interests, lobbyists and lawmakers in a tight web of money and insider access. The lobbying clients seek legislative help. The legislators seek cash, for reelection or pet causes. The common link: the consultant.
Why can't she just be a good little Chamber girl?
Randy Schultz slams Lake Worth City Commissioner Cara Jennings. He begins with a backhand: "This time, at least, a Palm Beach County politician didn't get arrested for misusing an office to enrich herself." Read the rest of it here:"Unconventionally conventional".
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "Last week, lawmakers toured the infamous ninth floor of the Miami-Dade County Jail, and were appalled at what they saw."
That county's jail has become one of the biggest mental-health institutions in the nation, and until recently, one of the most dreadful. Even as Florida officials toured the jail, a reporter for WFOR-TV CBS-4 in South Florida learned that six of the inmates in the facility had been in the jail for longer than state law allowed.There's more, courtesy of the "values crowd" that's been running the state for the last decade:
The sheer size of the Miami-Dade facility, with around 1,200 inmates on some form of psychoactive drug, earns its notoriety. But each of Florida's 66 other counties face the same problem: What to do with people whose main "crime" is mental illness, in need of treatment rather than imprisonment.
The spike in the numbers of mentally ill people behind bars is a symptom of the state's overall poor record in dealing with mental illness. Also earlier this month, the National Alliance on Mental Illness released its scorecard detailing the status of mental-health care in the states; Florida is one of 21 states to get a "D" grade. The state's community mental health system is overburdened to the point of collapse, the report pointed out. The state did particularly poorly promoting mental health and providing access to counseling and medication for the uninsured."Fiscally sound compassion".
"A proposal that would make it easier for developers to build on wetlands was approved by a House committee." "Bill to ease wetlands development advances in Florida House". See also "Bill to ease wetlands development advances in Florida House".
The best they could do?
"Singer Lloyd Marcus told the crowd assembled in Lake Eola Park on Saturday that he was going to give them his take on the first days of the Obama administration. Then he shrieked. That pretty much summed up the mood in the park Saturday afternoon, when more than 4,000 people attended the Orlando Tea Party, a conservative rally aimed at expressing discontent with Washington." "Orlando 'Tea Party' rally draws more than 4,000".
Run, Adam, Run!
"The Florida Legislature is grappling with a $7 billion budget deficit, an insurance crisis and burdensome tax increases."
So why are legislators spending time arguing about a constitutional amendment requiring secret ballots when the state already uses them?"Democrats also charge that Has- ner is carrying water for national corporate and conservative groups because he wants to run for Congress next year."
Because the amendment concerns a hot national issue for corporate interests - union organizing.
It's being pushed for the 2010 ballot by state Rep. Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach, and seeks to undercut a proposed new federal law that would make it easier for employees to organize unions.
Hasner's proposal is one of a wave of similar amendment drives in a dozen states led by the national organization Save Our Secret Ballot.
SOS Ballot won't reveal its funding sources, but it has links to conservative business interests.
Hasner acknowledged he's looking seriously at challenging U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, next year, but said his amendment is only about "enshrining the sacred right to a secret ballot, which I believe is a fundamental pillar of democracy.""Secret Ballots Issue Giving Labor Pains".
Tuition to rise?
"A controversial plan that would allow college tuitions to rise by up to 15 percent a year ... is likely to continue toward passage." "Plan allows college tuitions to rise".
"Fla. country club in foreclosure, up for auction".
"Spoiled on cheap energy, Florida homes among highest energy consumers".
Let me tell you what to think ...
Pierre Tristam: "The class-size amendment always had its heart in the right place. Less so its thinking cap. The economic crisis is giving legislators a chance to make the amendment more flexible. They'd ask voters on the 2010 ballot to loosen some restrictions, allowing class sizes to be set by averages rather than strict limits. Short of repealing the amendment altogether (ultimately the better route to reform), legislators and voters should seize the chance to alter it. Barring flexibility, school districts will be required to meet limits by the 2010-11 school year, causing further stretching of diminishing dollars. A constitutional amendment intended to improve education should not become one of the instruments impairing it."
Quality education in Florida, still an oxymoron, is not about class size, anyway. It's about low teacher pay that discourages quality teachers from staying in the profession (or in the state). It's about stingy funding for struggling schools and capital and technological improvements to older schools. It's about a Legislature historically less interested in investing in the state's future than in bribing with low taxes an aging electorate and a short-sighted business class. The class-size amendment addressed none of those issues. In many ways, it exacerbated them by forcing districts to build schools differently and hire more teachers, rather than pay them better, to meet the requirements.See what he recommends here: "Class size pales beside Florida's real education issues".
If improving education is the goal, I can think of several methods that would get us there more quickly and more effectively than smaller class sizes, especially given the resources that may be diverted to meeting class-size requirements.
If you were unaware, Tristam also has a blog.
Maxwell "tired of guys such as John Stemberger"
Scott Maxwell: "I can't help but think that many Americans who truly believe in family values are tired of guys such as John Stemberger spoiling their good name."
The latest from Stemberger and his Florida Family Policy Council calls for more government intrusion into our lives: higher marriage fees, state involvement in premarital counseling and possibly more obstacles for divorce."Scott Maxwell: 'Marriage tax' is an intrusion we don't need".
Entrepreneurship, take 20
"iPod scam nets prison term".
Charlie's raw pusillanimity
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "The notice to state agencies last week that the state would be withholding 15 percent of their money for the next three months did not come from Gov. Charlie Crist, who claimed to know nothing about it hours before the announcement. "
It came from Jerry McDaniel, Crist's budget director. Crist's office contends that is because the move is only a precautionary step. Yet it is only the latest example of the ways the governor continues to distance himself from an economic crisis. This is a situation that demands strong leadership, and the governor has yet to step up.Much more here: "Crist must step up, meet budget crisis".
Crist has avoided playing an aggressive, visible role in addressing sharp budget shortfalls that now reach more than $6 billion. ...
Asked Thursday by a reporter about whether he was planning to hold back 15 percent of state agencies' money in the fourth quarter, Crist told reporters he had not been briefed on such an option. Yet two hours later, McDaniel's memo was released. Crist's staff said the governor did not understand the question. That seems unlikely. ...
since taking office in 2007, Crist has treated the budget he must recommend by law as a perfunctory obligation rather than an opportunity to influence the legislative process.
Meantime, "there appears to be little consensus about how to proceed, with Republicans and Democrats in the House refusing to blink in a debate over axing sales tax breaks and Gov. Charlie Crist reluctant to commit to either revenue increases or deep cuts." "Democrats, GOP spar over ending sales tax breaks as budget talks start".".
"Sen. Nelson says office computers were hacked".
And they call unions "thugs"?
The Associated Industries of Florida in action:
A nursing home worker, Emma Murray, was injured lifting a patient and had to undergo a hysterectomy. The nursing home's carrier refused to pay. In 2005, a compensation claims judge ordered the carrier to pay $3,244.21 in benefits. Even though Ms. Murray's lawyer spent roughly 80 hours on the case, the judge awarded just $648.84 in fees - $8.11 per hour - based on the statutory fee schedule of 20 percent for the first $5,000 in benefits. ... [By contrast] the insurance company paid its lawyer $16,050."Compromise for workers".
"Pay cuts still on table for State of Florida workers".
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*With apologies to General McAuliffe
Although off-topic, it is useful to gain insight in how the conservative mind works: "Being nice in catty fight? Fat chance".
Spoils of war
Adam Smith wonders: "We're past President Barack Obama's 50-day mark, so it's time for America's biggest battleground state to be crassly parochial: Where are the plum political jobs for Floridians?"
He has some predictions:
State Sen. Tony Hill, D-Jacksonville: He was an early and influential early supporter of Obama when most African-American leaders were jumping aboard team Clinton. The Buzz is an ambassadorship in the Caribbean or Bahamas."Obama supporters in Florida wait for political rewards".
Orlando developer Bob Mandell: He was another top fundraiser for Obama in the critical I-4 corridor. The Buzz for him is an ambassadorship to Costa Rica.
Tallahassee City Commissioner Allan Katz: A major fundraiser, Democratic National Committee member and the campaign's top negotiator on Florida's primary debacle. The Buzz is a senior foreign policy post.
Frank Sanchez: Former Tampa mayor and Clinton administration staffer who backed Obama early, raised big bucks and became a top Latino adviser nationally. He's a contender for a senior Commerce Department job.
"Making sure voters do the right thing"
Mark Lane "takes it personally when local governments try to educate him", but reminds us that
this is Florida, and most Florida city governments also consider it part of their job to make sure their jurisdictions grow as fast and as far and as high as the laws of physics and the state of Florida allow. And, sometimes, furthering that work includes making sure voters do the right thing."Turn off the official bullhorn".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "An elected official in Florida may not deprive the public of"
"the intangible right of honest services" or "his or her commitment to provide loyal service or honest governance.""Give the state's prosecutors feds' anti-corruption tool".
What about honesty is so offensive to state legislators that they wouldn't want those words to become law? Plenty, apparently. Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, hasn't gotten so much as a committee hearing or a House sponsor for his bill, SB 2258, that would enshrine honest services into state law.
Mike Thomas thinks he's an expert: "Weakening tenure tomorrow would not prevent thousands of young, promising teachers from being laid off in the next school year. I hear complaints from Bush's group about burned-out teachers entrenched in their jobs. Yet every round of layoffs only magnifies their presence." "Tougher graduation rates the right call at the wrong time".
"Desperation changes any game of chance"
Pamela Hasterok: "How soon they forget. Not even five years ago, the speaker of the House said under no circumstances would he allow more types of gambling in Florida."
Today, lawmakers are arguing over not whether to permit extra gaming, but how much to allow. Table games like blackjack and baccarat at the Indian casinos? Video slot machines at dog and racing tracks?Hasterok untangles the issues here: "Gambling argument rears again".
Once the bastion of a Christian conservative anti-gambling sentiment, the House is acceding to the Seminole tribe's demand to have Las Vegas-style slot machines
"Taking gifts from a stripper"
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "When Florida's Judicial Qualifications Commission dropped its case against a former appeals judge accused of taking gifts from a stripper and helping to hide her assets, it abdicated its responsibility to police the judiciary. The JQC has denied the public a full accounting of what Judge Thomas E. Stringer Sr. did and why he resigned. It also has undermined confidence that it will adequately uphold its responsibility." "Judicial panel drops the ball".
"Tri-Rail may be breaking ridership records, but it's on fiscal life support." "Tri-Rail's success is critical to mass transit's future in Florida".
"Bill to rein in clerks' budgetary independence".
Try a newspaper
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "Public notices must be noticed".