... as stupid does: "Midway through a Fox News show hosted by Glenn Beck, one of her favorite radio and TV talkers, Lauren O'Brien began her transformation from mom, wife and full-time college student to activist." "Young mom organizes Broward tax-protest tea party".
"The Florida House is poised to pass its gambling package this afternoon, giving South Florida racinos a tax break in return for at least $140 million for education."
The Senate Ways and Means Committee, meanwhile, takes up its own gambling bill, with competing interests pushing amendments to alter or expand the deal."Gambling plans for Florida likely to get legislative push today".
The House proposal would reduce Broward and Miami-Dade racinos' tax rates from 50 percent to 36 percent in return for a minimum of $140 million in revenues dedicated to education.
The deal is less sweet for the state than it seems. The parimutuels are estimated to generate $133 million next year in cash for the state. But the bill reduces the annual permit fee the seven tracks pay to operate slots from $3 million to $2 million apiece, with the lost $7 million coming from the $140 million.
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board gives out grades: "Welcome back from the Easter/Passover holidays, Florida legislators. We hope you got plenty of rest, because judging by your midterm report card, you have a lot of work ahead to prevent this session from being labeled a failure. Let's review:"
•Commuter rail — D-minus"Lots ahead to avoid an F".
•Budget — C-minus
•Pension reform — A-minus
•Growth — C
Follow today's developments via The Tallahassee Democrat's "Capitol Twitter"
"Consumers will have little choice but to be gouged"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial Board: "Is your telephone bill too low?"
Are you worried that state officials have too much authority to investigate complaints against your phone-service provider? If so, the Florida Legislature has a bill for you. It's called the "Consumer Choice and Protection Act." and if it becomes law, it will mean that consumers will have little choice but to be gouged, and little protection either."Lawmakers should hang up phone bill".
"It should be the House that yields and accepts the tax"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "On the matter of raising new revenue to fill the $5.5 billion budget shortfall, Florida's House and Senate remain light-years apart."
The House is stymied by key Republican leaders' promise to adopt no new taxes this year. That pledge, however, hasn't kept the House from proposing to raise other revenue generators, such as turnpike tolls and driver-license fees, and tapping into federal-stimulus money that members once talked of rejecting. At this point in the session, the Senate is showing more responsibility.Read it all here: "House should accept tobacco-tax hike".
Even so, the Senate abandoned a review of sales-tax exemptions, which was supposed to lead to removal of some tax breaks to increase revenue. What the Senate is keeping, however, in its version of the state budget is a $1 tax hike on a pack of cigarettes, for a total of $1.34 per pack; and a $1 per ounce tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco. It is estimated that the increase would bring about $1 billion in revenue, some of which could be used to offset the $1.2 billion that taxpayers spend annually for treatment of smoking-related illnesses.
The House so far has stuck to its guns, refusing to get on board with the tobacco tax hike, but not completely ruling it out, either. When the budget bills go to conference, it should be the House that yields and accepts the tax.
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "Paying for smokes".
Back in business
"U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, made a name for himself suing alleged war profiteers, including one case against the security company Custer Battles. The company had a contract to help replace Iraqi currency with money that did not bear the likeness of ex-ruler Saddam Hussein, but the firm overbilled the government." "Appeals court puts Rep. Alan Grayson's Iraq profiteering lawsuit back on track".
"An increasingly bitter irony"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial Board: "Florida's desperation to supply new sources of fresh water to land once drained for people to live on is an increasingly bitter irony. Having strained groundwater supplies with more demand than the aquifer can sustain, the insatiable growth machine and the regional water management district board that services it have cast a gleaming eye on surface waters." "The wisdom of pumping".
"It all comes down to business. And politics"
Daniel Shoer: "What a double-standard."
Florida enforces a no-tolerance policy to criminalize users of illegal drugs like marijuana that do not have anywhere near the addictive quality of prescription opiates like oxycodone. Instead of tackling addiction, we overburden the jails and courts with minor offenses and let doctors keep on prescribing for true addicts."Tallahassee enables 'legal' addictions".
It all comes down to business. And politics. And the money that goes to politicians from special interests like the pharmaceutical industry.
"Pay cuts or furloughs?"
Bill Cotterell: "Furloughs or pay cuts? Pay cuts or furloughs? It's a choice of two bad options that legislators will be making in the coming weeks. Right now, it looks like pay cuts, which are worse for state employees." "Bill Cotterell: Furloughs or pay cuts? Both hurt".
When Grover says "Jump!" ...
"In a political career spanning nearly two decades, Republican Gov. Charlie Crist has one tie that's bound him to the conservative cause: staunch opposition to taxes. That's being tested now like never before." "Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's anti-tax reputation comes under strain".
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "It may be a blessing that the eroding economy claimed Gov. Charlie Crist's ambitious plan to buy 180,000 acres for Everglades' restoration."
Many details about the deal to pay U.S. Sugar $1.75 billion for the land were questionable. It was not clear the state needed that much acreage and its agreement to lease the farmland back to U.S. Sugar for seven years at bargain-basement prices made many suspect this was more a sweetheart deal for the sugar company than a historic environmental feat."Pruning 'Glades deal".
"In June 2007, a statewide school board organization voted unanimously to sue the state of Florida over inadequate education funding. Two weeks ago, that same organization voted unanimously to put the suit on hold." "Daily News: State school board tables idea to sue Florida over inadequate education funding".
See you in Havana
"Can Cuba cope with an onslaught of Americans?".
"By definition, they're looking for an educator to be chancellor of the state university system. By need, they're looking for a politically savvy powerhouse. " "Political pedigree key for Florida university chancellor post".
"State Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, and former state senator and 2006 gubernatorial hopeful Rod Smith are friends who talk regularly. Depending on how the political dominoes fall in coming months, the Democratic allies might be having some interesting conversations about the 2010 race for attorney general." "Pals Aronberg, Smith mull run for state top cop".
"Two Hillsborough lawmakers push to end a requirement for publicly funded art in state buildings." "Art falls out of political favor".