The St Pete Times editors this morning: "It would be one thing if state lawmakers were preparing for a dramatic showdown over the details of real tax reform, such as closing sales tax exemptions or overhauling a terribly unfair property tax system. But no. The best this Legislature apparently can do is fight over raising a tobacco tax that is one of the nation's lowest and has not been increased in nearly 20 years. So much for profiles in courage and responding to an economic crisis with the ambition the situation demands." "Lawmakers short on courage, vision".
See what they're up to today via the Tallahassee Dem's "Capitol Twitter". See also "2009 Legislature roundup".
"What truly stinks"
The South Florida Sun Sentinel editors write this morning that
what truly stinks is that [AG Bill] McCollum threw the hefty contracts to his former campaign consultant, who was paid at least $140,000 in fees and $35,000 to produce and edit the 30-second spots — without a bid. While it's true that, because the ads count as artistic content, competitive bids are not required by state law, what is legal is not necessarily what is right."McCollum lets cyber-safety message get clouded in no-bid contract flap".
Rather than bidding the work, or explaining why his former campaign consultant got the job, or why spending another $975,000 to keep the ads up for another five weeks is wise considering the lingering questions, McCollum has brushed off the criticism by insisting that cyber-safety is an important topic — a point that is not being debated.
What is up for debate is how he is choosing to spread the word, and right now, it's an issue that is could become more about the man than the message. And that is never a good thing, in politics or spreading awareness.
The Obama administration apparently is unafraid to take a bull by the horns: "An anti-Castro Cuban militant [the infamous Bushco crony Luis Posada] was accused Wednesday in a federal indictment of lying about his involvement in a series of 1997 bombings that targeted tourist spots in Cuba." "Cuban militant Posada indicted on new charges". See also "U.S. indicts Cuban exile Luis Posada, links him to bombings". Related: "The Bush dynasty and the Cuban criminals".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Crist has gone from uncaring to arrogant when it comes to the residents of the Glades communities." "Crist still disrespects Glades".
"Half a ['Glades] deal would be better than none"
Joel Engelhardt: "In March, as the $1.34 billion deal to buy U.S. Sugar's land unraveled, two company executives approached South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Carol Wehle in the state Capitol and suggested a new approach. As it turned out, half a deal would be better than none." "Smaller deal, smarter bet".
What would Grover say?
"A new poll finds that Floridians support some new taxes, including a cigarette tax increase and some service taxes." "A new poll finds that Floridians support some new taxes, including a cigarette tax increase and some service taxes." See also "Cigarette tax favored in Florida poll".
"Florida's infant mortality rate ... is higher than the national average"
"There are more than 230,000 births per year in Florida, and the babies of black mothers account for 21 percent of them. Of the 1,700 babies who die before their first birthday, 38 percent are black. Florida's infant mortality rate of 7.5 per 1,000 live births is higher than the national average of 6.8." "Health officials call for more education on infant mortality".
"Kottkamp should stop stonewalling"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editors: "Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp should stop stonewalling questions about his use of state planes." "Kottkamp flights raise turbulence".
More: "Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp has hired former Florida Supreme Court Justice Major Harding and former Attorney General Richard Doran to defend him against an ethics complaint over his use of state planes." "Air Kottkamp lawyers up".
We're so fine ...
"The whole Florida Cabinet is considering a run for governor next year." "If Florida Gov. Crist runs for Senate, expect run on his job".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board:
Double-dipping employees collect more in retirement benefits than if they retired for real and took only a pension. That wasn't the intention of DROP. And it's certainly not the desire of taxpayers who support the retirement system. These days especially, when so many Floridians worry about keeping one job, it's an outrage that some public employees essentially can get paid twice. The entire Legislature should follow the Senate committee's lead and start to end this abuse of the system."Drop retirement flimflam".
"Dismantling badly needed state programs"
The Tallahassee Democrat editors: "'It's not the final budget,' Senate Ways and Means Chairman J.D. Alexander said Tuesday. 'It's a lot of moving parts before you get to the end.'"
For such a serious business as balancing the state budget, during a recession and by session's end on May 1, Mr. Alexander's comment neatly sums up the process: It's a game of power and intrigue, chance and choice, and with only a few key players calling the shots."Where is the pride? Shortsighted budgets only hurt Florida".
The average citizen often doesn't have the stomach for this sausage-making spectacle. But it varies this year in that such a remarkably poor economy forces lawmakers to confront various deals with the devil.
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "Florida's legislators are wrestling with an unprecedented decline in general revenues. While some talk about embracing Indian gaming as part of a solution, there's a much higher-stakes game in play -- a game that risks the future of Florida by dismantling badly needed state programs, including public higher education." "State can't afford an about-face on higher education".
"A new 'Indian cigarettes' stamp would help cut down on sales of tax-free cigarettes sold on tribal property, one Senate panel says." "Florida may target tribes' cigarette sales".
"Making national cable news can be a coup for a freshman congressman — unless the show is the satirical Colbert Report and its anchor calls you "part alligator" while mocking one of your bills." "New Rep. Bill Posey gains his footing after rough start".
The Palm Beach Post editors:
At issue is whether a recording of a trial or hearing is an official court record, and therefore available under the state's public records law. The Commission on Trial Court Performance and Accountability, dominated by judges, wants the high court to rule that such recordings are not official records. The commission argues that because recording equipment can pick up confidential information, such as Social Security numbers and private conversations - particularly between attorneys and their clients - the public should not get unedited copies of those recordings."Courts belong to the public".
"The appeals branch of Florida's powerful lawyers association voted this week to step into the legal fray over Gov. Charlie Crist's refusal to fill a vacant appeals court post until he is given minority candidates." "More intrigue in Crist v Fifth DCA".
"The House’s pari-mutuel bill – which doesn’t expand the games offered at racetrack and jai alai frontons but does give them a lower tax rate to compete with Seminole resorts – is out. The new plan is tied to the House proposal to curb Seminole gambling by shutting down blackjack tables and limiting tribal gaming to slots." "House releases scaled-back gambling plan".
"One clinic pays patients $25 for bringing in a new customer to buy narcotic pills. Others lure patients with $25 gasoline cards, two-for-one pill specials and half-price days." "South Florida pain-pill dispensers under investigation".
"What got the attention of Orlando homemaker Kim Russell were reports that marijuana could help relieve symptoms of Parkinson's disease. She has a relative with the affliction. A doctor mentioned the potential value of marijuana, but her relative will not take it because it is illegal. So Russell wants to make it legal. Months of research led her to the amendment referendum process. She has registered with the state Division of Elections as a one-woman political action committee. And she has started the process of raising 700,000 petition signatures, the number required to get on a statewide ballot." "Medical marijuana? Orlando woman wants question put to a vote".
SunRail hanging on
"The proposed high-speed rail train that would link Orlando with Lakeland and Tampa will never happen if the planned SunRail commuter train through Central Florida is killed in the state Senate, mass-transit supporters said Tuesday." "Tampa high-speed rail, SunRail linked, backers say".
"Nelson calls for firing top consumer advocate over Chinese drywall issue".
"A top state police official ran into a tree -- and then a host of problems -- after he drank whiskey and flipped his truck." "DUI charge lands Department of Agriculture's top cop in a heap of trouble".
"He lost the last mayoral election and the lawsuit he filed after being forced to resign from his police department job, but Marion Lewis hasn't given up. Lewis, a former Tampa police captain who was soundly defeated by Mayor Pam Iorio in the 2007 election, has filed paperwork to run for mayor in the 2011 election." "Marion Lewis plans another run for Tampa mayor".
Times , they be a changin'
"A public servant fired in Largo for undergoing a sex change has been picked to be Lake Worth's new city manager." "A transgender triumph".