The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Florida residents should be disgusted by a Florida House that is willing to dodge public debate and trample public resources to benefit powerful special interests."
Just days after a grand jury castigated the Legislature for its cozy and costly relations with corporate wheeler-dealers, Rep. Dean Cannon of Winter Park orchestrated a late-session attack on the ban on oil drilling in state waters."Crist should block radical drilling ploy".
Oil lobbyists helped write the bill. Environmentalists and other concerned citizens were kept in the dark. Little debate was allowed.
The grand jury had issued the critical report while indicting Panhandle Rep. Ray Sansom, who was forced to step down as House speaker, for quietly funding a $6 million airplane hangar sought by a political supporter.
But that looks like chicken feed compared to what Cannon and the House were willing to give away - Florida beaches.
Update: "Florida Senate shelves drilling measure".
Is it possible the wingnuts might actually take a little heat for this? "Rep. Doug Holder represents more coastline in Sarasota County than any other member of the Florida Legislature."
But that did not stop the Sarasota Republican from voting for legislation to allow oil drilling rigs as close as three miles to the region's prized beaches."Offshore drilling vote rallies Sarasota Republican's foes".
Holder explained his vote Tuesday in part by saying that he did not expect the bill to pass anyway.
The legislation indeed appears headed for defeat in the Florida Senate, but Holder's decision to support it in the House stunned area residents and almost instantly turned him into a target for Democrats in 2010.
More RPOF "values"
"Florida Forever is no more as leaders omit it from budget".
Session extended through next week
Update: "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." "Brokered budget to move forward". See also "It's official: Session will go into overtime".
SunRail update: "Sidetracked by a budget impasse that was largely cleared away Tuesday, the $1.2 billion project now has only three days to round up the 21 votes necessary in the 40-member Senate to win approval of a $200 million insurance policy that would assign liability in the case of accidents. But the SunRail bill (SB 1212) was not scheduled to come up for floor debate today, increasing the chances that it could run out of time to be heard during the final three days of the legislative session." "SunRail has 3 days to get 21 senators on board".
"Florida lawmakers began negotiating a budget Tuesday that likely will tack an extra $1-a-pack tax on cigarettes and might slow down a Central Florida commuter-rail project." "Session extended to iron out budget".
"As Florida lawmakers begin their first full day of sorting out the nitty-gritty of their budget details, they've promised to do it in the open." "Lawmakers vow open budget battle". See also "Lawmakers hatch budget deal to raise cigarette taxes, fees", "Florida budget begins to take shape" and "Seminole Tribe gambling deal holds up budget".
The Miami Herald editorial board: "In politics, being supportive of education is a 'motherhood and apple pie' concept, right up there with family and patriotism. In a few days, Floridians will learn whether state lawmakers can deliver on their oft repeated commitment to education in a tough recession -- or if they merely are in love with the idea of 'supporting education.' So far, it's not looking good for lawmakers' word being their bond. " "Crunch time for budget priorities".
The last of fit ...
"Crist released the remainder of fourth-quarter money to state agencies, schools and courts after holding onto a portion in March in case money ran low. Crist's action followed his March 19 decision to keep back 15 percent of final state allocations before the July 1 start of the state's budget year." "Crist releases funds for agencies, schools, courts".
"With the future of gambling in Florida still unresolved, lawmakers are considering giving the state's struggling horse and dog tracks a new video-style gaming machine to help them attract new business." "New games in the pipeline".
Obama continues to deliver for Florida
"Everglades restoration got $96 million of economic-recovery money on Tuesday, mostly to pay for construction of a storage reservoir in Palm Beach County and improved water flow through Picayune Strand in Collier County." "$96 million more approved for Everglades restoration". More: "In 100 days, Obama's won over some in Lee County".
Lee County? Now that's impressive.
Welcome to Florida ...
... now learn a bit more about EFCA before you open your mouth about it again.
"McGovern recently bought a two-story, four-bedroom home in the southern end of St. Augustine Beach, an area steeped in history with milder winters than South Dakota." "McGovern sees connection between Obama, Lincoln".
"The trustees of Northwest Florida State College abandoned a $6 million airport project Tuesday and fired the school's longtime president, who has been indicted over the deal. ... The school trustees made both moves reluctantly, in part under pressure to act from Gov. Charlie Crist, as the small Panhandle school remains at the core of a political scandal that already has cost Destin's state Rep. Ray Sansom his position has House speaker." "NW Florida college cancels hangar project, fires president". See also "Richburg ousted by college trustees" and "College gives up $6 million project".
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "With Florida's unemployment rate at a 30-year high, it's impossible to fathom why state lawmakers may forgo collecting $444 million in federal unemployment compensation for those out of work. But that is what the Legislature's cold-hearted Republican leadership is poised to do as the annual session winds to a dismal close." "Jobless lose again".
"The wrath of the powerful homeschooling community"
"A proposal to scale back Florida's successful virtual school has incurred the wrath of the powerful homeschooling community and drawn national scorn from education reform advocates." "Don't cut back on online courses, Florida Virtual School supporters say".
Raw political courage
"Lawmakers pass plan to outlaw human smuggling".
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board:
The word inscrutable should not be used lightly. It is precisely the right word to use when trying to comprehend why state Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, has all but killed the Second Chance Act for Children in Prison during this legislative session. ... While the bill sailed through a Senate committee and narrowly passed a House committee, Snyder has shut the door on its progress, and on many rehabilitated young people it could help. ..."2nd chance bill deserves a hearing".
The bill would allow inmates who were 15 or younger and sentenced to at least 10 years in prison without parole to be considered for release after eight years.
As Florida's jobless suffer ...
... we continue to see displays of raw political courage from Florida's political class:
Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, is doing his part to close a legal loophole regarding solicitation of minors via the Internet."Today: Senator acts to close cybersex loophole".
The language of the Florida law says it is illegal to use a computer for soliciting, seducing or luring a child for sexual contact to a minor who resides "in this state." That means a suspect can communicate with a minor outside Florida, and not be tried on state charges.
At the urging of the Brevard County Sheriff's Office, Haridopolos filed an amendment to eliminate "in this state."
After all, they're just "employees"
"Employee shareholders who filed a class action lawsuit against the Clewiston sugar firm, its board, executives and controlling shareholders suffered a major setback Tuesday, when U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks dismissed all but one count in the suit." "Employees' suit vs. U.S. Sugar suffers setback".
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "Called the Consumer Choice and Protection Act (CS/SB 2626), legislation moving through the Senate and on to the House this week would basically lighten regulations that would, in turn, provide incentives for telecommunications companies to invest in infrastructure changes needed to get the job done — to compete and add services. But updating regulations for traditional local-exchange companies to something a little closer to what the wireless and cable companies enjoy has created concerns for consumers." "Lawmakers look smart in Telecom 101".
"If it comes at all"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Federal stimulus money for education comes with strings attached. But Florida school districts, universities and community colleges will be happy if it comes at all."
The Legislature and the state Department of Education have left school districts in a lurch in a couple of ways. The Legislature failed to maintain education spending at the 2005-06 level, making Florida ineligible for $2.2 billion in education stimulus money that the state was supposed to receive over the next two years. Then the education department, saying that it needed more information from Washington, delayed filing for a waiver that can free up the money. After the feds insisted that there was no reason to wait, the state finally applied on Monday. ..."Help Florida's students ...".
To get a federal waiver for the stimulus money, the state has to show that even though education spending might have declined, the percentage of the dwindling budget that goes to education has not. It's hard to see how the state can make that case if the Legislature slashes higher education.
"The Florida Senate Tuesday unanimously passed a bill that will allow university boards of trustees sole authority to select a president." "Senate passes butt-out BOG bill".
"State workers face a cut in pay, but legislative leaders must still agree on how much and who will feel the pain. ... Bypassing public conference committees, House Speaker Larry Cretul said he and Senate President Jeff Atwater will discuss cuts for state workers and will have a final number early next week. " "Details of state pay cuts being ironed out".
Believe it or not
"Harassment in Hollywood? Code enforcement wants chickens removed from Jewish home".
More Hasner stupidity
"A bill inspired by the horse-riding death of a Palm Beach County girl was approved Tuesday without the youngster's last name, because some lawmakers were concerned about her father's arrest record."
Originally introduced at the "Nicole Hornstein Act," it requires children 16 and younger to wear helmets while riding horses on public roads and trails. Nicole, 12, died in 2006 when her horse fell and her head hit the pavement."Bill inspired by Palm Beach County girl killed in horse accident renamed because of dad's record".
She wasn't wearing a helmet.
Concerns from House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Boca Raton, about Gary Hornstein's lengthy arrest record forced the name change, said Sen. Dave Aronberg, a Greenacres Democrat sponsoring the Senate bill.
"A bill that would allow law enforcement to ticket drivers simply for not wearing a seat belt is poised to pass after winning overwhelming support in the Senate." "Legislature close to passing mandatory seat belt law". See also "Bill allows stops for not wearing seat belt".
As long as your're wearing your seat belt
"Texting while driving likely to stay legal in Florida".
"Rates for holders of Citizens Insurance Corp. homeowners policies are likely to rise by at least 5 percent, possibly more." "Citizens' rates headed up". See also "Senate's insurance bill caps Citizens hikes at 5 percent" and "Bills would raise Citizens Insurance rates by 5 to 20 percent".
The cash is flowing
"The Florida House and Senate signed off on a measure that could give transportation money to Cutler Bay, Doral, and Miami Gardens." "Cutler Bay, Doral, and Miami Gardens get good news".
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial Board: "Central Floridians can be confident that local health officials are responding effectively and appropriately to a new strain of influenza. " "Prepared, not panicked".