Developers dancing in the streets
"After Republican lawmakers openly chastised the governor's growth management chief Wednesday, the House passed a bill that weakens the state's growth regulations in return for encouraging tighter development in urban areas."
The vote, 76-41 along mostly party lines, came after Department of Community Affairs Secretary Tom Pelham warned that House changes to the Senate growth management bill ``will substantially undermine Florida's growth management laws.''"Florida House approves growth rewrite bill". See also "House passes looser growth restrictions".
In a press release on Tuesday, Pelham warned that provisions in the House bill ''open up the state's major rural areas to unchecked development,'' eliminate the requirement that developers have roads in place to serve development, and abolish the state review process for large developments ``in major portions of the state.''
Howard Troxler explains:
If you think that Florida needs to throw out its laws about growth …"Is Florida without growth management what you want?".
If you think Florida's best answer to the economy is to open our state to developers wider than we have in decades …
Then you're in luck, because a growth bill passed by the state House on Wednesday does those things. This is probably the biggest thing the Legislature will pass in 2009. ...
The name of this bill, the House's revised version of Senate Bill 360, is ironically titled the "Community Renewal Act." It would be better titled the "Katie Bar the Door and Strip Mall Act of 2009." ...
The weirdest part of the House debate was the utter righteousness of the members. This was no sneaky, secret attack on Florida's growth laws — it was a full-frontal act of war, done shamelessly in the open.
The bill passed 76-41, with the Republican majority mostly in favor, and the Democratic minority mostly opposed.
It passed over the objections of Tom Pelham, the secretary of the state Department of Community Affairs, who has held that job under two Republican governors.
Yet the members dripped with contempt for Pelham during the floor debate.
"'Crist wants out, leaving Floridians with the mess'"
"Crist hasn't even entered the race for U.S. Senate yet and he's already drawn his first attack ad."
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will run ads in Tallahassee starting Thursday attacking the Republican governor by saying he wants to abandon the state in tough times. The DSCC may later expand it to other markets, said spokesman Eric Schultz."Democratic ad derides possible Crist Senate bid".
"Florida faces tough times and the budget mess could mean cuts in police, schools and health care, but instead of working to fix it, Charlie Crist wants to quit to go to Washington," an announcer says in the ad. "Crist enjoys being governor when he attends basketball games and Super Bowl activities, and when he takes over 60 days off with no schedule, but now the job's getting tough, and Crist wants out, leaving Floridians with the mess."
Budget deal moves to conference
"House and Senate leaders finally moved budget negotiations into the open on Tuesday and extended their session through next week to allow for a final vote."
Funding for commuter rail through Orlando, a $1 tax increase on cigarettes, a gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe and a state worker salary cut of roughly $30 million are among the many issues that lawmakers have agreed to include in next year's state budget. Some of the details remain up for negotiation in the coming days of conference committees, along with hundreds of specific budget line items."Brokered budget to move forward".
Conferencing is expected to last through the weekend, with the final budget reaching lawmakers' desks Tuesday. A vote is expected May 8.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "It's not like Florida's budget problems took state leaders by surprise. Yet, Gov. Charlie Crist and state lawmakers will end the 60-day, regular legislative session on Friday without completing the one task the state constitution requires of them — crafting a new state budget." "A "Special Session" needed for Florida Legislature".
"The House and Senate took a step closer to a deal on a proposed Seminole Indian gambling agreement. The Senate is no longer pushing to give the tribe full-blown casinos with craps and roulette, but would still allow blackjack and other card games at the Seminoles' casinos in Broward County and Tampa." "Legislature moving closer to deal on Seminole gambling". See also "Slots and blackjack in Palm Beach County? Lawmakers put it on the table", "Last-minute talks over Seminole gambling deal begin" and "Chances fade on deal for gambling". Background: "Seminole Tribe gambling deal holds up budget".
"Florida rejected $444 million in federal stimulus money Wednesday after House Republicans said the unemployment aid would hurt businesses and create new entitlements."
The proposal, already turned down by the Senate, would have, among other things, extended benefits to some part-time workers and a person who quits his or her job out of necessity like spousal relocation or domestic violence.And who is leading this pack of RPOFer geniuses?
Democrats assailed the move as callous when the state's unemployment rate is at a 30-year high. About 40,000 people would have been eligible under the new rules.
''Once government provides that handout, it never takes it back,'' said Majority Leader Adam Hasner of Delray Beach."State rejects some jobless funds". See also "House rejects $444 million in jobless stimulus funds".
Back at the ranch
"A new initiative will recognize the state's top charter schools." "3 local charter schools are honored".
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Although Senate President Jeff Atwater yanked the bill from its last committee hearing for a full vote in the Senate, it has yet to be placed on the agenda, signaling supporters do not have the votes. But the situation is fluid." "Bad rail deal should hit end of the line".
More: "SunRail has 3 days to get 21 senators on board" and "SunRail gaining steam; key vote could be Thursday".
Florida AFL-CIO President Cindy Hall: "Unfortunately, some legislators in Tallahassee want to block the Employee Free Choice Act in our state and deny Florida's workers the benefits that workers in other states will enjoy."
HJR 1013 and SJR 1908 would enshrine the rights of the corporations and CEOs to fire, harass and intimidate workers trying to form unions and ensure that the corporations, not the workers, are able to decide whether unions are formed by a majority sign-up or a ballot election."Time to put workers first".
Florida's workers need the Legislature to solve our budget crisis, fix our schools and improve health care for our children. They need the Employee Free Choice Act from Congress, not a mean-spirited campaign funded by out-of-state special interests that kicks our workers when they are down.
Big of 'em
"House OKs additional $1.8 million for slain BSO deputy's family".
"Arm-twisting by Wackenhut's army of registered lobbyists"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial Board: "The GEO Group, a Boca Raton-based operator of psychiatric facilities and subsidiary of the massive Wackenhut Corporation, says it can run the [Northeast Florida State Hospital] more cheaply, saving the state $3.3 million next year while providing the same level of service. But legislators have no evidence to support that claim, just a vague argument that privatization must be more efficient -- and a lot of political arm-twisting by Wackenhut's army of registered lobbyists."
The 800-plus people (one from Flagler, 63 from Volusia) at Northeast Florida State Hospital are there because they need intensive, specialized care. And the hospital is the most efficient, effective place to provide it. Handing it off to a corporation whose main goal is profit would be a mistake."Poor evidence for privatizing hospital".
The latest from the "values" crowd
"The cost of improving access to KidCare is a point of disagreement between the two chambers. The House claims it would cost money, since the changes presumably would lead to higher enrollment. A report from House staff cites data from state economists who estimated the cost of some of the bill's provisions at several million dollars." "KidCare fix hits new hurdle".
Jebbie's unfunded education mandates flop
"Former Gov. Jeb Bush's Foundation for Florida's Future has been pushing to raise the curriculum requirements for high school students, phasing in algebra II and geometry as required math classes, and biology I and chemistry as required science classes. In addition, the proposal would have increased the required graduation score on the 10th-grade FCAT to 3 from 2."
Patricia Levesque, executive director of the Foundation for Florida's Future, said she still has hope for this year, but also, "If it's not going to pass this session, it will be disappointing and it will be another year wasted in the lives of kids that need to be prepared for the future that awaits them once they leave high school."Effort to boost high-school standards fails".
While were at it, why not increase class size and cut teachers pay ... or isn't that already in the works?
Remind us ... why was Buddy Dyer indicted?
"The money was paid in an unusual way -- in two installments, apparently to get around a requirement that Space Florida's board of directors approve any contract of $100,000 or more. The move was so blatant that an executive in an agency under Gov. Charlie Crist worried it was a 'potential misuse of funds.'" "Lawmakers erupt over Space Florida's $300,000 in lobbyist fees".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Crist continues his attempts to stack the South Florida Water Management District board, which will vote next month on his proposal to buy a heaping dose of U.S. Sugar."
When the board voted 4-3 in December to pay $1.34 billion for 180,000 acres, the seat representing the Glades had been empty for nearly six months. The vacancy occurred the day Gov. Crist announced the original purchase. The Glades' representative, Malcolm "Bubba" Wade, resigned because he is a U.S. Sugar vice president.Much more here: "Fair vote on U.S. Sugar deal"
It has been more than 10 months, and Gov. Crist still hasn't made the appointment.
Meantime, "The state Senate narrowly defeated a bid to derail the U.S. Sugar buyout, preserving Gov. Charlie Crist’s top priority but exposing deep reservations over even the scaled-down $533 million deal." "Crist sugar deal narrowly survives in Senate". See also "Senate defeats U.S. Sugar amendment".
Charlie was "against it" before he was "for it"
"Crist, who has long fought tuition increases, embraced the idea of 'tuition differential' increases late last year, and is expected to sign the bill." "Crist gets bill authorizing 15-percent state university tuition increase".
After all ...
Charlie's quite the expert on rank opportunism: "While GOP shows outrage over Specter, Crist says senator probably had a tough choice"."Florida rediscovers citizenship education"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial Board: "Civics recourse".
"Reject pay cuts"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board:
The courts, in case the legislative branch has forgotten, make up the third branch of government. After previous cuts, that branch is struggling to function properly at the trial court level. State prosecutors haven't had even cost-of-living raises for three years. Some with families work as valets on the weekend. State attorneys report losing many good prosecutors to private practice. Public defenders speak openly about suing because they can't offer a constitutional defense. And legislators know that they never will make up the losses from these tough-times cuts when times get better."Reject pay cuts for courts".
"Flurry of bills advance as Legislature's session winds down".
Stop and frisk
"The Legislature on Wednesday sent a bill to Gov. Charlie Crist that would allow police officers to pull over drivers for not wearing a seat belt. The governor said he would sign the measure into law." "Legislature passes seat-belt bill".