The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "With time running short in this year's regular session, the Legislature's Republican majority has sucker-punched Floridians with a last-minute plan that would throw new obstacles in the path of citizens registering to vote, casting their ballots and amending the state constitution. The voting plan's partisan motivations are transparent." "Assault on voting". Related: "Proposed Florida elections bill inspires furor among activists".
Charlie deigns to speak
"Crist slowly breaks silence on legislative issues".
Still waiting ...
"Florida lawmakers are relying on $2 billion in federal stimulus money to shore up their education budgets, but the state has not even sent in its application."
The federal government is waiting. And so are some lawmakers."Federal education money waiting on Florida". See also "Florida hasn't applied for education stimulus cash" and "Concerns grow over federal education money delay".
On Wednesday, Florida Education Commissioner Eric Smith said the state has ''strategically waited'' to get all the right information, although the application ``is ready to go, it's complete.''
But Smith said he's waiting for guidance concerning a waiver application for the federal money. The waiver is needed because Florida is one of a handful of states to underfund education in recent years.
Smith's strategy is coming under fire as the legislative session winds down May 1. That's the same day Smith now expects to get the waiver guidance, which he says his office has been waiting on for weeks.
The state and federal education departments stopped short of mutual finger-pointing, with Smith saying the feds keep postponing release of the waiver information, and the U.S. Department of Education saying Florida shouldn't be waiting on anything.
''They have absolutely everything they need to complete the application,'' said Sandra Abrevaya, deputy press secretary for the U.S. Department of Education.
"As lawmakers struggle with questions of tax increases, the state's mammoth budget and whether the legislative session will end on time, one person has emerged as a political power in the Capitol: Dean Cannon." "Future speaker of House a power in secret budget talks". See also "Dean Cannon emerges as behind-the-scenes House budget power". Related: "Legislators meet in private over budget despite lashing from grand jury".
Meantime, "Democrats condemn secret budget negotiations".
Funny how ...
... potential strikes are all of a sudden big news: "Bruno's employees Birmingham union preps to strike".
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "To Florida House members who are waiting for leadership heavy-hitters to work out budget grievances with the Senate, here's a suggestion on a better way to spend their time: Get to work on a clean energy portfolio." "Keep it clean".
"Ludicrous for its predictability and shortsightedness"
Update: "Florida Gov. Charlie Crist says he's open to oil-drilling proposal".
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial Board: "Give oil and gas company lobbyists this: They are persistent. And so are the legislators who shill for them year after year with attempts to lift Florida's ban on drilling in state waters. But give them nothing more, certainly not the amendment passed by the Republican-dominated House Policy Council, 17-6, Tuesday to permit oil and gas exploration 3.5 miles from the state's east coast and 11 miles from its Gulf coast."
This year Dean Cannon, R-Orlando, in line to become the next state House speaker, is leading a stealth attack. He sprung the amendment Tuesday, replacing language in a bill up for its last vote before reaching the House floor. The shenanigans aside, Cannon's justification for the amendment is ludicrous for its predictability and shortsightedness."Rigs on the horizon". See also "House bill would lift offshore drill ban".
He's using the weak economy as excuse, suggesting that Florida needs the proposed $1 million fee from each oil or gas company exploration permit approved by the governor to help alleviate budget constraints. Never mind what havoc might occur to the state's economy and budget from eventual oil operations along both coasts of this tourist-dependent state.
Drill, baby, drill remains a mantra of the state's Republican leaders. And don't forget Gov. Crist's flip-flop last year in support of off-coast drilling in hopes of winning John McCain's nod as his vice presidential candidate. Who knows where the governor will be on this proposal.
Mike Thomas tries to make himself relevant with this today, calling drilling 3 miles off Florida's beaches: "a golden opportunity to pursue good public policy." "Could offshore oil wells drill vision into us?".
More: "Nelson accuses House of pushing agenda for Big Oil".
"Crist unveiled a new gambling deal with the Seminole Indians Wednesday guaranteeing the state a two-year, $1.1 billion loan from the tribe in exchange for the exclusive rights to offer blackjack games in Florida. Republican legislators wasted no time blasting the proposal as a risky, shortsighted approach to fixing Florida’s finances." "Crist unveils new Indian gambling deal". See also "Seminoles, Crist make gambling pitch". See also "Crist gets talks rolling on new gambling compact".
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board:
The refusal of Florida's leaders to responsibly address the state's budget crisis was underscored Wednesday by Gov. Charlie Crist's announcement of his latest deal with the Seminole Indian Tribe. The idea is for the Seminoles to give the state $600 million up front in return for expanded gambling. This is not sound public policy. This is a desperate attempt to avoid choosing between raising taxes or decimating education and other public services."A desperate toss of the dice".
It's the Sales tax, stupid
"Road improvements and other big-dollar projects in Hillsborough during the next six years will be delayed." "Drop in sales tax money threatens big projects".
"SunRail deal doesn't appeal to South Florida senators".
The gay thing
"The never-substantiated chatter about Charlie Crist being gay is likely to ramp up again with the release of a new documentary, Outrage, about closeted gay politicians." "Resurrecting the Crist is gay speculation".
Extra focus is placed on Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who supported a bill banning gay marriage last year, and the doc recounts a string of stories from Florida's alternative press, along with anonymous interviews with people who claim to have had conversations with a man who boasted of having sex with Crist, who when asked about rumors has denied them.""Outrage": The Case for Outing".
The doc sought out Kelly Crosby Heyniger, one of Crist's girlfriends until the end of 2007, who didn't appear on camera but gave them a statement about what broke them up: "I think I should just keep my mouth shut. Call me in ten years and I will tell you a great story." One of the final scenes of the movie is of Crist's wedding last July, and a reminder that he's considered to be one of the top contenders for the GOP nomination in 2012 (although his support of President Obama's stimulus package could complicate that). In a bit of judicious editing, ala Michael Moore, Crist tells a reporter, "If your wife can't help you in a campaign, who can?"
Conflict of interest
"Two months after naming Miami attorney Paul Huck Jr. to an influential post with the South Florida Water Management District, Gov. Charlie Crist announced a landmark deal to buy out U.S. Sugar."
The governor's surprise announcement had one unintended consequence. It effectively ended Huck's tenure on the water board just as it started -- a reality Huck has made official by resigning. Previously, Huck served as Crist's general counsel."Florida-U.S. Sugar deal makes Miami attorney's water board role untenable". See also "Surprise departure from water board could shift voting margin for Crist's U.S. Sugar deal".
With his law firm, Colson Hicks Eidson, representing U.S. Sugar employees in a suit alleging the company undervalued their shares, Huck was forced to recuse himself from debating a deal that has dominated water board business for 10 months. It is likely to remain an issue for the next year as well.
What passes for thinking in Tally these days
No surprises: The less than impressive ramblings of one Robert F. Sanchez, the policy director for the wingnut James Madison Institute in Tallahassee.
What a bargain
"The fallout from a budget standoff between the House and Senate could hit taxpayers even harder this year as lawmakers braced Tuesday for overtime at $40,000 a day." "Budget impasse may cost Florida $40,000 per day".
More from the "values" crowd
"One of the most explosive issues of the legislative session -- higher education money -- takes center stage Thursday when the leaders of the state's university system plan to converge on the Capitol and bash the proposed budget of the Florida House of Representatives." "Florida university leaders poised to bash budget".
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Cuba change will come slowly, if at all".
Outa here ...
"For the first time since the 1940s, more people moved out of Florida last year than new residents moved in from other states as the economic slump has halted years of explosive population growth in the Sunshine State. Florida reported a net loss of 9,286 domestic residents between July 2007 and July 2008, according to U.S. Census data released this month. But that loss was offset by a net gain of 77,427 new international residents, mainly as immigrants arrived from Latin America and other points abroad." "Census: More move out of Florida". See also "When it comes to the U.S. Census, language counts".
Joel Engelhardt: "In the blink of an eye, demographers this month eliminated nearly 200,000 people in Palm Beach County. They projected that the county would have exactly 194,700 fewer residents in 2035 than they projected just last year. Similar declines are forecast for Martin and St. Lucie counties and throughout the state." "The population battle".
"A plan to restructure the panel that recommends how the state doles out Medicaid money is headed to the Senate floor after clearing the House Wednesday." "Florida House of Representatives passes Medicaid changes".
Heaven help us
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "It's not as if we have an overwhelming bear problem in South Florida."
In fact, the black bear sighting in Weston marks the first time something like that has happened near homes in Broward County Click here for restaurant inspection reports in 30 years. And because of that, some hunters are quickly — and ludicrously — calling for a resumption to bear hunting, which has been banned in the state since 1994."Hunters now want to take aim at bears? Please.".
Talk about overreaction.
We don't have a bear problem. If anything, we have a people problem.
"House approves bill that would limit double-dipping". The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Double, but smaller, dips".
What insurance companies want ...
"Worried about financial risks and an exodus of major insurers, Florida lawmakers started moving forward Wednesday with plans that could lead to higher property-insurance rates. The House overwhelmingly approved a bill that would lift regulations on the rates that large insurance companies can charge. " "Florida may lift insurer's rate cap".
Is it "reasonable"?
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "The Florida Chamber of Commerce's top priority is House Bill 903, which would override the court's decision by removing the word "reasonable" but keeping the fee schedule. That change alone, however, would be unfair to workers with legitimate claims. If lawyers believe that they won't get fair compensation, they won't take the case. There are no limits on how much insurers can pay attorneys to defend denials of benefits."
Until last week, the Senate version of the legislation had been just as unfair. But the Judiciary Committee, by a vote of 8-1, approved a new version of SB 2072. It treats workers fairly by setting a reasonable fee schedule. It treats business fairly by not allowing hourly fees that attorneys can run up and by limiting policy increases when companies lose such cases. The only dissenting vote came from the sponsor of the original bill. This week, the new version passed another committee unanimously and is ready for a full Senate vote."Fair to workers, businesses".
"Jack Latvala to run for state Senate District 16 seat".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "End the painkiller abuse".
Not too much to ask
"In a strongly worded letter to state House and Senate leaders, Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon asked that they pay the state's settlement with a family who adopted three brothers who were raped and starved in Palm Beach County foster care." "DCF secretary asks House and Senate leaders to compensate family who adopted abused brothers".