Update: "Crist signs budget with two vetoes, restoring state pay". See also "Crist vetoes pay cut for state workers earning more than $45,000" and "Crist signs budget, vetoes pay cut for state workers".
"Crist is poised Wednesday to sign a recession-racked $66.5 billion state budget that required a legislative overtime to draft, raises $2 billion in taxes and fees and trims the ranks of state employees." "Crist to sign budget Wednesday after many urge vetoes".
"Crist is set to sign an austere budget for another tough financial year. With state revenues continuing to fall, it's taken a combination of spending cuts, federal stimulus money and about $2 billion in tax and fee increases to balance the $66.5 billion budget. The governor also can exercise his line-item veto power when he puts his signature on the spending plan Wednesday." "Crist signing $66.5 billion Fla. budget".
At the trough
"In the midst of a $6 billion state budget deficit and widespread private-sector layoffs, one Florida industry looks recession-proof: lobbying state lawmakers." "Lobbyists at Florida Capitol rake in up to $45M".
As Charlie dithers
"Florida's consumer confidence index declined from April to May by one point to 71 - compared with a benchmark of 100 established in 1966 - reflecting consumer pessimism about personal finances, a University of Florida survey released Tuesday said." "Florida consumer confidence shrinks".
"TaxWatch targeted only $14.975 million in 'turkeys' -- Tallahassee-speak for questionable items stuck in the budget by lawmakers -- that it thinks Gov. Charlie Crist should consider vetoing in the proposed 2009-10 spending plan. That is a fraction of the overall $66.5 billion budget and is far less than the amount of turkeys TaxWatch typically has found in past years." "Watchdog group finds few tax 'turkeys'". See also "This year, turkeys are scarce in Florida's budget", "Group finds Dade 'turkeys' in Florida budget" and "TaxWatch lists targets for governor's veto pen".
Fire away ...
"A federal judge has tossed out Florida's electioneering communications law, effectively freeing groups to spend unlimited sums of money to attack candidates in elections without publicly disclosing their donors."
In striking Florida's broad campaign-season reporting requirements, U.S. District Judge Stephan Mickle said the state had placed an unconstitutional burden on nonprofit organizations that want to discuss candidates and issues on the ballot."Federal judge throws out restrictions on electioneering interest groups".
The Broward Coalition of Condominiums, Homeowners Associations and Community Organizations brought the lawsuit, after the group ran afoul of the reporting law when it tried to print a newsletter including information on candidates and constitutional amendments in last November's elections.
Sansom charged with perjury
"The grand jury considering charges against former state House speaker Ray Sansom indicted developer Jay Odom, inset, today on a felony charge of official misconduct for his role in the $6 million airport building Sansom secured funding for in 2007. The jury added a perjury charge for Sansom as well." "New charges in Sansom case".
Background: "Grand jury reviews new evidence".
"Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court is a source of pride for many Hispanics who see one of their own reaching a milestone." "Sotomayor's nomination is source of pride for Hispanics in Central Florida". See also "Praise for Sotomayor in Florida underscores GOP's dilemma".
Related: "Democrats likely to get a boost from Sonia Sotomayor pick" and "Hispanic Supreme Court nominee creates strategic problems for Republican opposition".
Fortunately for the FlaDems, there's of shortage of right-wing gasbags to publish GOP talking points: "Identity politics in the court".
"Crist has rejected a state senator's demand to fire Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty if he refuses to resign. Crist said Tuesday that McCarty has done a good job and should stay on. ... Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, has complained that McCarty broke a promise to not recommend that Crist veto Bennett's bill deregulating rates for consumers willing to pay more to highly capitalized insurers for property coverage." "Crist backs McCarty in Fla. insurance bill dispute".
Checkbook Charlie at work
Charlie wouldn't want to offend the NRA, now would he?: "Crist plans to veto a $6 million transfer, or what critics call a 'raid,' on a fund backed by fees that people pay to seek or renew their concealed weapons permits." "Gov. Charlie Crist to veto 'raid' on gun fees". See also "Gov. Crist likely to shield gun fund from transfer" and "Weapons-licensing fund raid at risk".
Serial bar flunker to judge Sotomayor's fitness?
"Crist on Sotomayor".
The gay thing
Scott Maxwell writes that "if a politician who argues that gays are not fit to run families is actually gay himself, then their own logic suggests they're not fit to run our state or country, either."
The problem, however, is that the business of "outing" closeted gays isn't that simple."After all, it involves a popular Republican governor from a big state — a newlywed, no less."
No one has offered anything close to concrete proof that Crist is gay. Not in the movie. Not in real life.
In Outrage, which opens in Orlando next month, the "proof" comes from second- and third-hand sources — people who say they heard from someone else that Crist had gay encounters. ...
I mean, if a reporter at this newspaper tried to write a story based solely upon information he got from someone who got it from someone else about yet another person, good luck finding an editor willing to publish it.
But proof, schmoof; the story has caught fire.
And there are plenty of Crist foes on both sides of the political aisle who are eager to stoke it — Democrats, as well as social conservatives who think Crist is too moderate."Gay rumors or intolerance -- which is the true outrage?".
And then there's the media, which by writing about the movie circumvent their traditional burdens of journalistic proof.
Pieces about Crist's sexuality have run everywhere from the Orlando Sentinel and Miami Herald to the Chicago Tribune and Seattle Times in recent weeks. ...
Not only did Crist support the ban on gay marriage, but he also favors the ban on gay adoption — an outdated law that puts Florida in a league of its own when it comes to discrimination.
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "For years, the people who run Tri-Rail have been telling state legislators that there's no tomorrow for the commuter railroad. This year, the warning was: If the Legislature doesn't allow a $2 tax on rental cars to replace contributions from Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, Tri-Rail will cease to exist." "The right train of thought on Tri-Rail".
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "President Obama's call for talks with the Cuban government on immigration issues is smart precisely because of the criticism raised by South Florida congressional representatives." "U.S. wise to seek talks with Cuba on immigration".
"Frank L. Amodeo, an Orlando businessman who thought he had the powers of an Old Testament prophet and that he one day would rule the world, learned Tuesday where he'll spend his next two decades: in prison. ... His crimes stemmed from his private-equity firm Mirabilis Ventures Inc., which created and bought distressed companies, including ones that provided payroll services. He held onto employee withholding taxes that should have gone to the IRS." "Tax cheat Frank Amodeo gets 22-1/2 years in prison, $181 million in restitution".
"An Orlando businessman charged with creating one of the largest employment tax-fraud schemes in the history of the Internal Revenue Services has been sentenced to 22 1/2 years behind bars. A federal judge sentenced 48-year-old Frank Amodeo Tuesday for failing to collect and pay payroll taxes and obstructing a federal investigation." "Former Fla. exec sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison".
The water's warm
"Dockery Considers Run for Governor".
"A bad environment for the environment in Tallahassee"
Mark Lane: "There are only two parts of the business cycle when the Florida environment is in danger -- good times and bad times." "Bad times make state less green".
"Everything is connected by the dollar signs"
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "Everything is connected by the dollar signs. Local governments, the ones closest to our daily lives and whose officials we know best, are affected by the new bare-bones state budget, plus an ongoing push to reduce property taxes."
A constitutional amendment to extend Save Our Homes-like protections to non-homestead property owners with a 5 percent cap on assessed-value increases and giving first-time homebuyers a tax break on their new homes for five years will be on the 2010 ballot."While these are a way to attempt to even out the Save Our Homes largess now enjoyed by long-time homeowners, these new amendment proposals also would mean less revenue for county governments beginning in 2011."
Property taxes are to local governments what the 6 percent sales tax is to the state of Florida's bank account, and state lawmakers haven't thus far found the courage or imagination to revamp the sales tax system thoroughly. So citizens do what they can to make things better for themselves, including reducing property taxes via constitutional amendment."Tough choices".
This impulse to use amendments approved statewide to curtail the growth in local government revenues or their ability to raise money mean that, regardless of how local voters feel or have voted, our local county, city and school districts must steadily shave their budgets, and the services therein.
"Crist is under pressure to veto a bill that loosens a transportation requirement for new development." "Legislation to ease development rules disputed".
Draggin' them knuckles ...
"'What you are seeing is a radicalization of the Democratic Party moving away from the mainstream values of the American people,' said Mathew Staver, founder of the Maitland-based Liberty Counsel, which challenges gay-rights issues in court." "Gay activists vow to fight on despite marriage ban".
"The way this money is allocated smells"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "They don't call them slush funds, but that's what the Miami-Dade County commissioners' ever-growing discretionary accounts really are. Each elected official gets to reward constituents virtually without accountability. No matter how worthwhile the cause, the way this money is allocated smells. It's bad government." "County slush funds out of control".