"Forget taxes, oil drilling and gambling. Perhaps the biggest divide between Republicans and Democrats in Florida these days is over Gov. Charlie Crist's possible U.S. Senate bid."
Many Republicans are becoming anxious their popular standard bearer will leave his office up for grabs and set off a number of potentially testy GOP primaries. Democrats are giddy at the prospect of gaining a toehold in GOP-dominated Tallahassee."GOP focus: Crist's possible Senate bid".
Crist's potential campaign for higher office dominated the conversation at the Broward County Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day dinner on Thursday.
"The House began a marathon debate Thursday over a $66.5 billion budget that papers over a $6 billion shortfall with billions in federal stimulus dollars, salary cuts for state workers and nearly $800 million in new fees." "Final vote on Florida budget today".
Jim Saunders: "Battling over public schools and hundreds of millions of dollars in increased fees, Florida lawmakers are almost sure today to approve a $66.5 billion budget -- and hope the recession-battered state can weather the next year."
House Republicans and Democrats argued for hours Thursday about whether the spending plan will pump enough money into school classrooms and meet the state's other needs.And catch this from what passes for "leadership" in the RPOF these days:
Republicans said they have listened to parents and teachers and made education spending a top priority, slightly increasing school funding while dealing with a $6 billion budget shortfall caused by the troubled economy.
"This budget says that education is the number one issue of importance (to lawmakers and the public)," said Rep. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican who is chairwoman of the House PreK-12 Appropriations Committee.
But Democrats questioned the Republicans' claims and criticized plans to help balance the budget by taking steps such as increasing fees on driver's licenses and vehicle registrations.
"I compare this budget to a chocolate pie," said Rep. Ron Saunders, a Key West Democrat who is a top Democrat on budget issues. "It looks pretty good until you take a bite and find out it is made out of mud."
But House Majority Leader [sic] Adam Hasner, R-Boca Raton, accused Democrats of not offering solutions to deal with the state's worst budget problems in decades. He called Democrats the "party of no.""Lawmakers face final push to approve Florida budget". See also "House debates budget before Friday vote"
More: "Lawmakers to vote on Florida budget today" and "Legislature approves $1 billion in higher fees as part of budget".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "House and Senate leaders have reached an acceptable compromise on gambling, and the full Legislature should approve it today." "Pass decent gambling deal".
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Florida has more than enough gambling. Ideally, it would have less. But the compromise the Florida Legislature is expected to vote on today appears to expand gambling in a measured way. It is not an ideal solution, but it is a practical one." "Gambling deal gets job done".
Half-**sed Hasner at work
"Thirteen state House Republicans sent a letter to Gov. Charlie Crist on Thursday, asking him to veto a bill one of their fellow GOP leaders sponsored. Ten of the 13 lawmakers voted against the bill to create a prescription drug database in Florida. Three of the Republicans - [House Majority Leader [sic]] Adam Hasner of Boca Raton, Anitere Flores of Miami and [wannabe Speaker] Dean Cannon of Winter Park - did not vote on the original bill." "Drug database access worries some in Florida House". See also "Drug database access worries some in Florida House".
In the wings
"Fla. Sen. Aronberg set to run for attorney general". See also "Attorney General Dave Aronberg?".
The delightful Rooney family
"A gambling deal awaiting final legislative approval in Tallahassee Friday lays the groundwork for slots and possibly a new card room in Palm Beach County for the Rooney family, whose various members own the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Palm Beach Kennel Club." "Rooneys say gambling deal could open up another card room in Palm Beach County". See also "Rooneys say gambling deal could open up another card room in Palm Beach County".
Zell upset with public employees
The Zell Corporation is unhappy that some public employees have sick leave buyback programs: "It's admirable that some government employees never get sick, and that they love going to work every day. But please, people, take the sick and vacation days given to you, or lose them. You're not doing your employer, or taxpayers, any favors by hoarding the time. You're only creating a budgetary nightmare." "Vacation time policies must change".
The League of Cities says "Jump!"; the Zell Corporation shrieks, "how high!"
Kosmas making a mark
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board:
first-term Democrat Suzanne Kosmas of New Smyrna Beach has launched a new bid to double the one-year waiting period [retired Congresspeople "must wait after leaving their seats to lobby their ex-colleagues"]. Her commendable effort deserves enthusiastic support from both parties, which still have plenty to prove when it comes to their sincerity about ethics reform."Slow the revolving door".
Ms. Kosmas already has lined up the backing of at least one Republican: fellow freshman Bill Posey of Rockledge. This kind of bipartisanship is a welcome about-face for Mr. Posey, who introduced tin-hat legislation in March that would require all presidential candidates to submit a birth certificate when qualifying to run. That proposal was red meat for the fringe members of his party who still refuse to accept that Barack Obama is a U.S. citizen and eligible to be president.
Crist on verge of dumping Kottkamp?
"Crist says he hasn't made up his mind whether Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp would share the ticket with him if he seeks reelection." "Crist hedges on a running mate". But see "Crist says he remains confident in Kottkamp".
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Jeff Kottkamp may wind up actually achieving something as lieutenant governor. His remarkable lack of judgment and ridiculous travel expenses should convince more civic-minded Floridians to push for a constitutional amendment to abolish the office." "Taking taxpayers for a ride"
"Space Florida President Steve Kohler resigns".
Fed handout saves the day
"Florida's universities dodged a bullet this year, but lawmakers bridged a $6 billion shortfall with $159 million in federal stimulus dollars, and that has administrators worried about the future." "Stimulus funds offer some universities breathing room".
Wingnuts in a dither:
To the dismay of many conservatives, the Vatican's own newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, has offered what one antiabortion Catholic blog called "a surprisingly positive assessment of the new president's approach to life issues" — so positive, in fact, that a spokesman for the National Right to Life Committee was moved to criticize Pope Benedict XVI's daily."Conservatives tilt to Vatican's right".
5 gears in reverse
"Republican lawmakers, confronted by a backlash from voting rights groups and Democrats, have abandoned their plans to overhaul the state’s voting rules before the legislative session ends Friday." "Republicans Withdraw to Revise Florida Voting Rules".
"The race to succeed orthopedic surgeon Ed Homan as the state representative in House District 60 is off to an early start. The primary election is more than a year away, yet Republican Joseph Wendt filed papers with the state in February." "House District 60 race cranks up early".
"Bringing in another buyer could help lock up the 180,000 acres of farmland Gov. Charlie Crist covets for Everglades restoration." "Dealing with other buyers could help state get all of U.S. Sugar's land".
The "values" crowd
"State Budget Would Slash Art Funding".
There's an idea
"The cost of foreclosing on homes and businesses will rise sharply under a bill lawmakers are expected to approve today, a change that one state leader predicts may persuade lenders to try harder to work out alternatives with struggling borrowers." "Bill increases costs to foreclose".
"In her life after Congress, Thurman has been working to provide Florida Democrats with the tools that she lacked back in 2002. Never again does Thurman want to see Democratic candidates lose because they don’t have the ability to micro-target voters or because they can’t ensure that Democratic votes make it to the ballot box on Election Day." "Life After Congress: Thurman Helps Florida Democrats Find Tools to Win".
"With the parents of a slain police informant looking on, Gov. Charlie Crist signed a law that will require police departments to adopt policies to protect people like their daughter." "Crist signs law to protect informants".
"This should be a no-brainer"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "With the cost of a college education soaring all over the country, including in Florida, reforming college-loan plans is taking on a new urgency. Fortunately, there is a proposal on the table that won't be a burden on taxpayers and could ease the staggering debt load for young people entering the workplace. This should be a no-brainer for Congress. When it comes to legislation, though, nothing is ever easy." "Invest in education, reform loan program".