"A handful of gimme and a mouthful of much obliged"
As Florida wallows in fiscal and public finance irresponsibility, "[a] massive $4 billion in federal stimulus money is about to be pumped into Florida to build more roads, serve more senior meals, aid disadvantaged kids and even help fight forest fires."
Without the infusion of federal cash, the state Legislature would have had to make some politically unpopular cuts to the current budget, which is about $700 million in the hole.Strange that the feds did not make this a package deal; consider:
But with the extra money on hand, a special panel called the Legislative Budget Commission will likely approve all the new spending in a few hours Wednesday. Not only will the money spare legislators from the hassle of agonizing over budget cuts, it will expand programs to help unemployed people seeking new jobs, job training and food stamps.
While Republican Gov. Charlie Crist warmly embraced the Democratic spending plan, some Republican state House members suggested they might refuse some of the money. In the end, the Legislature will likely reject about $440 million in additional [unemployment] compensation benefits that could trigger a higher tax on businesses."Federal stimulus cash pumped into Florida's budget". See also "$4 billion in stimulus aid rescues Florida budget".
Lawmakers will take the remaining $13 billion.
One has to wonder how long the Northern gravy train will keep-a-comin'? RJ Eskow explains:
Southern states have been benefiting from Northern taxes for years. ..."Do Southern Senators Really Want to Start a New War Between the States?".
Studies (.pdf) by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation have consistently shown that [Southern low-tax] states receive far more from the Federal government than they pay back in taxes. That's an irony that could lead to some Blue State bitterness: They love to preach about fiscal responsibility and lower taxes, but they keep dipping their beak into the Federal trough.
I believe the applicable Southern phrase is "a handful of gimme and a mouthful of much obliged."
RPOFers runnin' government like a business
"An official with the governor's Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development likely violated state law by arranging $500,000 in state funding for a "space tourism" program at a Panhandle medical clinic that he then went to work for, state investigators have concluded." "Florida official likely broke law over 'space tourism' program, job".
"'He's not respectable'"
Steve Bousquet: "Sen. Al Lawson of Tallahassee, the Democratic caucus leader who's running for Congress, said the idea of cutting lawmakers' pay 'offended' him and tried unsuccessfully to remove the pay cut."
Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, a backer of the pay cut, shot back: "If anyone ran for office because they need a salary, they should never have run. … We're not up here for the salary. We're up here to do good policy."Bousquet adds:
Fasano's words upset Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, who interpreted him to mean that only well-off people should be in the Legislature.
"We're saying you have to have money and if you don't have it, you don't belong here," Lynn said. "It is practically telling people, if you don't have money, you're not going to make it in this country. … I want everyone to have a fair shot at being a representative or a senator." ...
Lawson blasted Fasano, calling him totally out of touch. He was gaveled out of order and told not to personalize his comments.
"He might bully you all, but he don't bully me," Lawson said. "He's not respectable."
It's probably heresy to argue that legislators are underpaid, but many of them are, and two arguments can be made in favor of a bigger salary.Much more here: "In Florida Senate, pay cuts get personal".
Higher pay would encourage more people of modest means to run, making the Legislature more diverse.
A higher salary also might reduce the urge by legislators to supplement their income by forming political committees filled with lobbyist money.
Lesley Blackner, president of Florida Hometown Democracy, a nonpartisan citizens' initiative to amend the Florida Constitution: "Since the last decade, Florida Republican leaders have waged an ongoing war against Florida voters and the U.S. Constitution."
They are relentlessly pushing to destroy our most fundamental First Amendment right: free speech. Yes, right here, in what's supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, certain enemies of democracy have worked overtime to rid the state of fellow citizens who stand on street corners and ask you to sign a petition to put an issue on the ballot. A petition like Florida Hometown Democracy, the statewide initiative to give voters a vote on whether their local growth map should be changed."Petition rights in legislators' cross hairs".
"Amendment 6, as it turns out, does not help Biscayne Towing and Salvage or other businesses like it because of the limited definition of working waterfront that voters approved. But as the Legislature drafts the implementing language — the exact wording that goes into law taking effect in 2010 — a little-noticed but persistent lobbying effort is under way to expand its reach." "Amendment 6 is limited in offering property tax relief along waterfront".
Hurry up and wait
"For some Floridians, losing a job is just the beginning of their frustration."
The state agency that handles claims for unemployment benefits can't keep pace with the record demand for help, even after hiring 500 more workers to manage 1,000 phone lines at three locations on weekdays, at nights and on weekends.That's the tip of the iceberg:
As the jobless rate in Florida nears 10 percent, the Agency for Workforce Innovation concedes that people trying to file an initial claim, track down a lost check or resolve other problems get recorded messages, busy signals or cut off entirely. The lucky ones may endure waits of more than 10 minutes.
At the same time, the pool of money to pay unemployment compensation is shrinking rapidly. It was at $619 million last week, down from $680 million the week before."Phone line leaves Florida jobless stranded, frustrated". Meantime, the geniuses in Tally are about to reject $440 million unemployment compensation federal handout because it might "trigger a higher tax on businesses" in future years.
Some critics say the agency needs still more resources to address the urgency of the worst unemployment crisis in Florida since the mid 1970s.
A new Florida growth industry
"Police fear more 7-Eleven robberies".
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial Board: "Short of a serious emergency, you don't usually see members of county commissions, school boards, city councils or other government bodies interrupting public meetings to take phone calls. It would be disruptive. It also would be questionable on legal grounds. Elected officials' communications during public meetings are meant to be public. That's what 'public' means. The public-meeting law doesn't carve out exceptions." "Sunshine sans the subtext".
Love 4 sale
The RPOF is raking it in:
$3.9-million raised in the first quarter. Major donors include $160,000 from Jeff Atwater's CCE, and nearly $20,000 from Atwater's campaign; $118,000 in-kind from Universal Studios; $100,000 from Broward lawyer Scott Rothstein; $100,000 from the CCE of Ray Sansom, Dean Cannon, and will Weatherford; $105,000 from Blue Cross Blue Shield; $100,000 from AT&T;$100,000 from the Florida Medical Association;$100,00 from the Realtors PAC."RPOF raises $3.9-m, spends $3.6-m". The FlaDems "FlaDems raise $1.2-m, spend $1.1-m"
"The main property insurance legislation gaining momentum this year in Tallahassee is a departure from laws passed in 2007 and 2008 that aimed to lower homeowner insurance premiums and beef up the state's authority to hold insurers accountable. And most of the bills this year are supported by insurance groups." "Florida home insurance legislation mainly favors the insurers".
"A business in transition"
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editor, Earl Maucker "Newspapers' future: We are a business in transition".
St. Petersburg Police chief Chuck Harmon is right when he says that AR-15 semiautomatic rifles "don’t belong on any city street in America." So why are they so easily available?"Why is this gun legal?".
"But there is a catch"
"A key state senator said Friday he is willing to vote for Central Florida's planned commuter train, conceivably pushing the $1.2 billion SunRail project closer to reality. But there is a catch. In return for his support, Sen. Chris Smith, D-West Palm Beach, wants SunRail proponents to allow a local-option $2-a-day rental-car surcharge." "SunRail's survival may hang on lawmaker's quid pro quo".
Sorry 'bout that
The Palm Beach Post editors: "Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon has stepped to the plate and offered to do for a former Boynton Beach couple what the Florida Legislature has failed to."
He wants to make good on the state's promise to compensate Debbie and Jorge for neglecting to tell them of the horrific abuse their three adopted children suffered in state care. ..."Editorial: Pay for state's bad faith".
In 2007, the state agreed to pay the couple $10 million to cover the costs of their sons' mental-health treatment and to compensate the couple for their pain and anguish. The brothers were raped, beaten and caged in a chicken coop while in foster care. Since being adopted in 1998 - all are still under 18 - they have molested classmates and each other, attempted suicide, and terrorized their adoptive parents, threatening at one point to kill their adoptive mother.
Third degree "embarrassing federal prosecutors"
Daniel Ruth: "Last week, former University of South Florida engineering student Youssef Megahed walked out of a federal courtroom in Tampa a free man after being found not guilty of charges of illegally transporting explosives and possessing a destructive device."
Days after his acquittal, Megahed was snatched off the streets by U.S. Immigration and Customs agents and charged with vague "civil violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act." Like embarrassing federal prosecutors."Judge, jury, verdict? Doesn't matter".
And he now sits in jail pending deportation proceedings. Did Megahed break any laws? No.
Indeed, Megahed's only crime appears to have once been a defendant in a criminal case, in which he was found not guilty by a jury. Immigration and Customs Enforcement insists incarcerating this young man does not constitute double jeopardy because the deportation action is a civil matter. But that is complete hooey, or words to that effect.
"They say a blanket ban on hiring retirees is unfair and unwise. Some lawmakers are looking to craft legislation so that badly needed teachers, police and firefighters could return to work for limited hours or entry level pay." "Double dippers push back".
NASA = Jobs
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "NASA badly needs a leader and a plan. The future of the U.S. space program, billions of dollars, and thousands of jobs, hang in the balance." "The future of the U.S. space program hang in the balance".
"$1,000-a-night guest cottages on a private island off of Key West"?
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Taking free or discounted hotel rooms, even those worth thousands, sounds like a minor offense in this era of high-profile political extortion and bribery. But it's an offense against the public, which deserves honest service from politicians, not self-serving favoritism. Kevin McCarty knew about what amounted to felonious behavior but didn't report it. Instead, he benefited from it. For that he deserved a year in prison and a sentencing judge who didn't minimize his crime." "Soft-pedaling McCarty's sins".
"A bill in Congress to fight cancer in young women, championed by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has come under some surprisingly strong criticism." "Weston lawmaker's cancer legislation faces criticism".
"State tobacco tax ignites a clash in Tallahassee".
"U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Bartow, has requested $10.1 million in projects ranging from gang prevention for the Polk County Sheriff's Office to $1 million for the Center for the Development of Information Technology Applications for Manufacturing and Distribution at the University of South Florida Polytechnic in Lakeland." "State Lawmakers Still Seek Earmarks".