"It's getting to be embarrassing"
"As the Legislature gridlocks, the Republicans who control the process fear for the strength of their party after more than a decade in power." "Stymied budget taking toll on Republican lawmakers".
"After nearly two months of debate dominated by Florida's dreary finances, lawmakers enter the final scheduled week of the annual session with almost every major issue unresolved. Among them:"
proposals that could raise property insurance rates; create a Central Florida commuter rail system; increase cigarette taxes; and make major changes in growth management, telecommunications and workers' compensation insurance laws."Decision time at state Capitol".
"Senate President Jeff Atwater and House Speaker Larry Cretul sent members home Friday and announced an impasse that may mean an extension or special session after the end of business Friday." "Tension high in budget draw". See also "Updated: Budget talks between Florida House, Senate drag on".
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial Board:
Crist says he has the answer. He's struck an elaborate deal with the Seminole Tribe that would allow blackjack, baccarat and more advanced slot machines -- as well as free booze -- at the tribe's six casinos in Florida in exchange for $1.1 billion to the state spread over the next two budget years. The Senate identified a different strategy -- allowing pari-mutuels across the state to expand gambling, including 24-hour operations and ATMs to give gamblers quick access to cash."Counting on wages of sin".
Both plans stink. Expanded wagering is a bad bet for Florida: Repeated studies have identified sharp increases in demands on social services and incidents of family violence and suicide, all related to problem gambling.
Even worse, the lawmakers panting after gambling money are dodging their duty to deal realistically with the state's troubled budget. Florida's $3 billion budget deficit wouldn't be nearly as bad if lawmakers had restrained themselves from handing out big-dollar tax breaks to wealthy investors and businesses. Those tax breaks were touted as sure means to boost the state economy, but the promised benefits never showed up.
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board reminds us that "hanging on to the bottom rungs in every measurable quality-of-life standard. It's getting to be embarrassing. Legislative leaders seem numb to progress and quite comfortable with unintended consequences, which with any luck will occur when they are either out of office or in another, bigger one." "Grim outlook: Floridians hang on in hopes of better days"
"The governor simply is"
Mark Lane has Charlie figured out: "Charlie Crist is Florida's Taoist governor. He strives by not striving. He wins by not playing. He is the uncarved block upon which independent voters can visualize their wishes." Much more here: "Florida's governor of the Tao".
On a related point, the The Miami Herald reported yesterday that it "was a classic Charlie Crist kind of day. After a couple of short morning meetings, the governor hammed it up for the Tallahassee press corps participating in Take Your Child to Work Day and posed for pictures with their kids." "Crist knows where the cameras are". See also "Gov. Charlie Crist's agenda lags in Florida Legislature".
"The good, the bad and the downright ugly"
The The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board writes that "The only thing lawmakers must do each year is pass the state budget. But with the regular legislative session scheduled to end Friday, a few other significant measures hang in the balance. A look at the good, the bad and the downright ugly:" "Good bills and bad".
"Are they rigging the budget"?
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial Board:
Are legislators acting in the best interests of Floridians, or are they rigging the budget to favor special interests? A few weeks after the would-be House leader's indictment on official misconduct charges connected to his budget-rigging, it's a bit much to ask Floridians to take the Legislature on faith."Closed doors shadow budget talks".
Lucy Morgan: "You would think a grand jury's criticism might move some of these guys to clean up their act. You would be wrong. They're too busy defending it."
House Republicans are really making a name for themselves. It is almost as though they have a meeting every morning to dream up a way to look more stupid than the day before. Surely it was at such a meeting that they decided to introduce last-minute measures that would make it harder for Floridians to vote and welcome oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico."Legislators are as legislators do".
And as if to add fuel to the fire they allowed testimony from an energy committee that will not disclose its membership and a lawyer from Texas who will not disclose his clients.
All this done as they looked down the barrel of a grand jury report criticizing secrecy.
The Obama 2.0 campaign
"Barack Obama's former campaign manager, David Plouffe, was in Tampa on Friday, talking to volunteer supporters and raising money for the Democratic National Committee at Mise en Place restaurant."
The Obama 2.0 campaign, as it's sometimes called, says it has put a staff in place in about 15 states so far, and hires are coming soon in Florida. It hasn't made any announcements yet, but we hear it's already tapped John Bivona for Florida field director. He was a regional field director based in Pinellas County during the election. Names in the mix for state director include veteran Florida organizers Ashley Walker and Nate Jenkins."Obama 2.0 campaign to keep issues alive in Florida, other states".
Meantime, "Almost 100 days into his presidency, Barack Obama has solidified his support in South Florida, but there is also an energized core of opposition [read: teabaggers]." "Obama gets high marks in S. Florida".
"Tallahassee is ready to sell out the state"
"A bitterly divided Florida House gave preliminary approval Friday to a controversial plan by Republican leaders to allow oil and gas drilling as close as three miles from Florida's beaches." "House approves oil, gas drilling".
Randy Schultz: "Tallahassee behaved last week the way Tallahassee can behave when a powerful special interest wants something. In other words, Tallahassee acted against the public interest."
First, no major bills are supposed to arrive unannounced during the next-to-last week of the legislative session. Among other things, there's almost no time for debate. That applies this year especially, given the budget talks."Drilling bill is rigged".
But Monday night an e-mail went out from a Tallahassee public relations firm saying that the state "has begun a healthy new dialogue based on facts, not fear, regarding possible exploration and production of oil and natural gas in the state's Gulf of Mexico waters." Tuesday afternoon, a follow-up release advertised a "conversation about taking a bold step to empower (the state's) economy through oil and gas exploration" that could mean rigs just 1 mile from the beach.
A conference call had been set up. A poll, concluding that Floridians would be OK with drilling, was ready. An economist had been hired to say that oil and gas "exploration" could bring Florida $1.6 billion a year from lease payments and royalties and create 19,000 jobs. Nearly two dozen lobbyists were at work. ...
this "Drill, baby, drill" campaign had been orchestrated for weeks, with the idea of springing it at the last minute. Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, is in line to be House speaker in 2011 and 2012. He replaced an innocuous one-page bill (HB 1219) that would have created a plan for offshore drilling with a 19-page bill that would wipe out the state's ban on drilling within 10 miles of the coast. ...
Tallahassee isn't just behaving badly. Tallahassee is ready to sell out the state.
"If they back off, it's because they got caught"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Last week, with just a few days left in the session, Republican legislative leaders proposed a terrible election 'reform' bill that came with no public comment or staff analysis. On Thursday, House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach, said that Republican leaders might resist the temptation to ram the legislation through both houses. If they back off, it's because they got caught. The outcry over the GOP's sore-loser bill could be heard all over the state." "Defeat this attack on voters".
Jebbie spreads his cheeks ... Columnist inserts his nose
Florida's alleged journalists gotta keep their options open, with more layoffs inevitable in the newspaper industry. Surely there will be an opening for a flack at "Jeb!" Bush's phony, self aggrandizing Foundation for Excellence in Education.
Consider today's doggerel: "I've had little success selling Jeb Bush's education reforms to my liberal friends and colleagues. So I am trying something new. I'm calling them Barack Obama's education reforms." "Dems' school reform takes page out of GOP book".
Raw physical courage
Carl Hiaasen: "When you're a Miami-Dade commissioner, danger lurks at every ribbon-cutting."
One example of such a combustible situation was the grand reopening of the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach last November. Accompanied by Officer Paul Hernandez, [Commissioner] Diaz courageously attended the celebrations, which were crawling with glamorous celebrities and other suspicious characters."Miami-Dade commissioners driven to spend".
On the first night, Heidi Klum was slinking around with two dozen sullen supermodels from Victoria's Secret. Kate Hudson and Gwyneth Paltrow hovered menacingly in the shadows.
Paris Hilton showed up late with her motley entourage, as did the brazen Mariah Carey. Meanwhile, unpredictable Martha Stewart was spotted on a spiral stairway, her intentions unknown.
Despite these eminent threats, Pepe Diaz refused to be intimidated or run off. He'd gone to the Fontainebleau to represent the good citizens of Miami-Dade and, by God, that's what he intended to do.
Something's rotten in Hillsborough
"Was it a voter education effort or a 'Vote for Buddy' education effort?"
Some members of a black advisory board created by former Elections Supervisor Buddy Johnson now say they witnessed firsthand the influence of paid consultants on the message being presented to voters."Who won in voter effort?".
It's the core of an ongoing federal investigation: how he and his office spent more than $2 million in local and federal voter education funding. Johnson could face criminal charges if it turns out he spent the money to further his re-election campaign.
For months, it was just criticism that Johnson's name and face were synonymous with the education effort. It became allegations of misconduct in March when one consultant, Michelle B. Patty, was accused of using voter education money to hire a woman to stump for Johnson on Election Day, a charge Patty has denied.
But no one who worked closely on the outreach effort had spoken out until now.
Billy Boy just did essentially the same thing, with his "decision to award a no-bid contract to his former campaign media consultant to produce and air the [courageous I'm opposed to sex offenders] ad. McCollum is on screen for most of the 30-second spot, which has run statewide." "GOP defends Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum's cybercrime ads".
Where's the federal investigation of McCollum? Scratch that: perhaps it would be best to drive a stake into his political career at the ballot box.
Marco wants a promotion
"A group of conservative, Republican activists in South Florida has launched an online petition to discourage Charlie Crist from running for the Senate: www.keepcharliecrist.com." Adam Smith suspects it "has more to do with helping likely Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio than genuine fondness for Crist." "Keeping Crist".
Too bad it took an 11 year old
The best Central Florida can do?
Aaron Deslatte: "Two Central Florida lawmakers have been at the epicenter of the budget gridlock and have a vested interest in smoothing things out."
Rep. Dean Cannon, R- Winter Park, has been the House's lead budget negotiator for the past two weeks, and Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Indialantic, has been a key critic of the backroom negotiations involving Gov. Charlie Crist's pitch to borrow $1.1 billion from the Seminole tribe for the right to install blackjack tables."These 2 take long view on state's budget mess".
One motivation for both: their own political futures. Cannon will be House speaker and Haridopolos the Senate president when Florida's $13 billion share of the federal stimulus money runs out in 2011.
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Despite the recession, it's hard for Florida Atlantic University to make the case that it can give the faculty only a 1 percent pay raise. FAU trustees approved that raise and a $1,000 bonus Tuesday for professors who haven't received an across-the-board raise since 2006, despite a special magistrate's ruling that the university could afford a 2.5 percent increase." "Raise questioning at FAU".