"Capitalizing on a worldwide recession and fresh memories of $4-a-gallon gas, conservative Republicans in the Florida House have outmaneuvered a formidable enemy in their quest for the industrial Holy Grail — offshore drilling for oil and natural gas." "'Timing is everything' in bid to greenlight offshore drilling".
"Dangling the promise of millions for the state's dwindling budget, a group of mostly unidentified oil and gas companies are bankrolling a last-minute fight to bring offshore drilling to Florida's coastline."
Florida Energy Associates, a corporation formed in December by Daytona Beach lawyer Doug Daniels, has hired at least 20 of the state's most prominent lobbyists to push bills through the legislature in the final week of session. Most of the lobbyists were hired in the last 10 days but the proposal has been planned for months."Oil companies push Florida legislature for offshore drilling".
The measure, slated for votes in the House and Senate this week, would give the governor and Cabinet authority to approve oil and gas exploration 3 to 10 miles off the Florida coast.
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "Big Oil and its backers knew this reckless scheme would never survive had they unveiled it when the Legislature convened nearly two months ago, so they waited until Tuesday to launch their ambush."
It came from Rep. Dean Cannon, the Orlando Republican slated to become Speaker of the House in 2010, who introduced a bill to lift the prohibition, claiming he wanted to start a "mature, thoughtful discussion" about state's energy policy."Big Oil's ambush". More: "A group of mostly unidentified oil and gas companies bankrolls a last-minute fight to bring offshore drilling to Florida's coastline".
If that's the case, why introduce it at the last minute and leaving no time for such a serious matter to be debated?
In truth, Cannon, the Associated Industries of Florida and Big Oil have been quietly planning this move, using the state's fiscal crisis to suddenly contend the drilling would be a panacea ...
The "values" crowd in action
"A bill to expand insurance coverage to children with developmental disabilities beyond autism is struggling in the Senate, with budget leaders concerned about costs." "Insurance bill for kids in jeopardy".
Yet more from the "values" crowd
"Elementary schools face big cuts".
You gotta problem wit' dat?
The Palm Beach Post editorial board:
The growth-at-any-cost Florida House wants to return to the bad old days when a developer could plop down a new town just about anywhere in the state."Head off Florida land rush".
Aaron Deslatte: "The Florida Legislature is entering the final week of its 60-day regular legislative session with precious few of the big-dollar decisions resolved."
And unless lawmakers break the logjam in budget talks, many of them could get jettisoned when the clock runs out Friday, and the Legislature is forced into a $40,000-a-day special session to get the budget done."Here's a look at some key unfinished business": "In budget bind, big issues get knotted up". See also "Florida legislators leave big decisions for last".
Steve Bousquet: "Legislature faces lots of work, little time".
Marc Caputo yesterday: "Republicans, who have dominated the Legislature since 1996, aren't just down because of budget talks. They're also confronting other issues that make them wince. They're raising taxes. The economic news is blotting out other topics that traditionally fire up supporters, like abortion or guns." "GOP faces perils of budget gridlock".
RPOFer "political aspirations" exposed
"The budget standstill in the state Capitol has exposed the political aspirations of Florida's most powerful Republicans."
Cannon's insisting on a budget that would keep a positive balance sheet for three consecutive years, which would help him avoid deep cuts or embarrassing tax increases when he is expected to take over as House speaker in 2011."Gridlock reveals efforts to climb political ladder".
In the Senate, President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, is trying protect a chamber that unanimously approved new cigarette taxes and gambling money in hopes of avoiding a third year of budget cuts.
Atwater is mentioned as a possible statewide candidate in 2010, and strategists say he'll be an easy target if he agrees to tax increases and education cuts.
Much of the budget - and the 2010 election season - depends on whether Republican Gov. Charlie Crist runs for reelection or the U.S. Senate.
Crist has inserted himself into the budget debate by insisting the economy will rebound in two years and replenish state sales-tax collections just as the $14 billion federal stimulus package runs out.
Several lawmakers believe that's a bet Crist will hedge for himself by running for U.S. Senate in 2010. He is adamant that he has not decided which office to seek.
We can hardly wait
"Pat Rooney Jr. - dog track president, restaurateur, radio personality, attorney, South Florida Water Management District board member, Steelers scion and brother of Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney - is considering a state House run." "Dog track's Rooney eyes starting gate for state run".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "The legislation to deregulate Florida's property insurance market has changed, but it hasn't gotten good." "The insurance bailout bill".
"Don't give insurers a blank check ..."
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial Board: "So Florida lawmakers want to deregulate property insurance rates to attract big private insurers to "hurricane land" and hold onto the ones threatening to leave. That may be one way out of the mire the Legislature's gotten the state into by allowing the industry to write our property/casualty insurance laws."
The other possibility: Bid the private insurers farewell and self-insure everyone in Florida under a state-run pool like Citizens, already larger than any private insurer in the state, with 1.3 million policies. At this point, we won't argue over which path would take us closer to reliable coverage at a fair price. Either choice -- caveats to follow -- should be better than this mess we're stuck in. Besides, the free marketers seem to be in control at the state capital anyway."Caution in deregulation".
We don' need no stinkin taxes
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Even as the leaders of the Florida House and Senate try to reconcile two versions of a new state budget, they are poised to fritter away another opportunity to collect billions of dollars in unpaid sales taxes."
States with smarter and more responsible leaders on this issue than Florida — 22 states so far — already have joined the Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board, an effort to standardize their tax codes."Internet sales tax plan fading away, again".
Tuff talk from an empty suit
"Crist wants Destin Airport hangar money back".
"Promises made as property values mounted seem forgotten"
"Three months ago, Gov. Charlie Crist said the gloomy economic times made it imperative to help homeowners and businesses by lowering property taxes. ... But after nearly two months of deliberations with a Friday deadline nearing, lawmakers have all but ignored the issue that dominated their campaign promises for years." "Tax refrain fades to gentle whisper".
Limbaugh breathes a sigh of relief
"Even if the Legislature approves a bill to slow illegal painkiller prescriptions, storefront pain clinics will still be able to operate with little scrutiny." "Law may lack teeth to rein in pill mills".
The Miami Herald editorial board: "The Leon County grand jury that indicted former speaker of the Florida House Ray Sansom last week also sent legislative leaders a warning about corruption -- but the lawmakers obviously aren't listening and didn't get the message."
The jurors warned about the risky convergence of power, control and secrecy in the backrooms of the Legislature and how easily leaders' rump sessions can lead to corruption. ''This state should be guided by openness and transparency,'' the jurors said, in an indictment that charged Mr. Sansom with falsifying the state budget to secure $6 million in funding for an aircraft hangar for a developer friend and major GOP donor."Jurors send message about power, secrecy".
Despite the warning, legislative leaders blithely went about their business. They huddled with lobbyists and special interests to craft a plan that would reverse Florida's 30-year ban on offshore oil drilling. They froze out public input when planning a massive overhaul of state election laws that would wipe out gains made since the 2000 Election debacle. They secretly decided on deep budget cuts for Florida's colleges and universities. On and on it went all week, with lawmakers power-tripping on changes that promoted personal agendas at the expense of good governance and effective policymaking.
Pension threat level red
The Florida League of Cities whines about those crazy pensions in "Rising pensions pose threat".
"'Rachel's Law' rally set for this afternoon at Capitol".
"The recession has taken a grim toll at animal shelters as the rising number of abandoned dogs and cats has forced an increase in euthanization." "From corruption to mercy".
"Palm Beach County Commissioner Addie Greene may be stepping down April 30, but she helped ensure that two pet projects she calls her legacy have the money needed to continue. Where the money comes from and how Greene helped secure the financing initially raised some eyebrows." "Palm Beach County Commissioner Addie Greene helped land money for her 'legacy' projects to continue".
"Will Universal, SeaWorld combine forces?".
"It's time for a .pol domain".
"The Eighth Commandment"
"North Miami Beach Council candidate Hillel Hellinger may have been a no-show at several forums leading up to the city's May 5 election -- but he said he has a good reason: the Eighth Commandment." "Sabbath comes before politics for candidate".