The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial Board: "In 2005, Florida's per capita spending of $403 on higher education was the lowest in the nation by far (Nevada was next at $440; the national average was $615). The state was ranked 46th in higher-education funding as a proportion of all government spending -- 6.4 percent, compared with more than 14 percent in North Carolina, a state with a stellar public university system."
If the state were serious about investing in its future, it'd be investing more in its 11 colleges and universities. Instead, legislators are shifting more of the responsibility of paying for college to students and parents while indemnifying the state on the back of half lies: Yes, the bad economy is contributing to large budget deficits. No, the economy is not alone to blame. Legislators (and, to some extent, voters) are, for setting up those deficits through a decade-long carnival of tax cuts. "Higher ed's heists".
Close ... but no cigar
"New film doesn't 'out' Gov. Crist".
The best they could do
"Lawmakers passed a resolution to extend session for a week to consider the budget, and other conference-committee topics are still on the table for action. Here are some highlights from Friday's action:" "Last day of regular session closes".
"Legislators, unable to ignore a budget crisis, raised tuition and taxes and rejected a rail line and offshore drilling." "State budget remains undone for now". See also "Session Stumbles to Partial Close"
"Legislators will return for a brief extended session next week to complete work on the state budget. Bills to open the gulf to offshore drilling, rewrite election laws, encourage renewable energy uses and buy a rail line for a Central Florida commuter train were rejected." "Lawmakers have unfinished business".
"Plagued by a historic budget deficit and turmoil in the House leadership, Florida lawmakers came to a partial close of their annual session Friday, cutting deals on property insurance and school funding, while rejecting the governor's renewable energy bill." "Session's casualty list is lengthy".
"Lawmakers left the Capitol on Friday after passing a property insurance increase and other bills at the last minute but failing to give Gov. Charlie Crist the clean energy bill that was high on his priority list. Lawmakers will return next week to vote on the budget - the details of which are still being worked out - but won't take up any other issues." "Fla. lawmakers finish all work except a budget". See also "Legislature wraps up all its business - except for budget" and "Extended session to vet budget".
"U.S. Republicans enlist Jeb Bush in party's bid to rebuild".
This is what passes for "justice" these days
"The new legislation passed Friday was hailed by business groups who said it saves small business owners from higher workers' compensation rates."
The bill (HB 903) passed on a 22-16 vote, effectively trumping the high court's decision in Ocbober that struck down the cap on lawyer fees."Disputed Workers' Comp Bill Passes".
The justices ruled attorneys should be paid reasonably for representing injured workers.
The Supreme Court decision was in the case of a nurse who was injured lifting a patient at a nursing home.
Her lawyer helped her win $3,344 in lost wages and medical expenses after her initial claim was denied.
The law, though, limited his fee to about $8 an hour, while the insurance company's lawyers were paid about $150 an hour.
"The proposed Central Florida commuter-rail system crashed to defeat -- for the second time in two days -- in the Florida Legislature on Friday. The failure in the Senate of language backing SunRail appeared to ring a death knell for the proposed 61.5-mile system connecting DeLand and metropolitan Orlando."
Opposition from the AFL-CIO and some other unions also buoyed SunRail's critics and played a key role in defeating the project."SunRail defeated, 'gone forever'". See also "Senate hammers spike through SunRail's heart".
The SunRail amendment was drawn up as a template for future commuter-rail arrangements in the state. It would have allowed the state to contract out certain work -- such as maintenance and signal operations -- along the SunRail corridor and future corridors rather than having CSX use its unionized employees.
Union leaders called it a form of union-busting and said it was a safety issue. Proponents maintained opposition often was misguided, misplaced or worse.
"President Barack Obama is apparently preparing to replace the top federal law enforcement officials in Florida, including U.S. Attorney A. Brian Albritton."
The Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission is accepting applications from candidates for eight jobs: U.S. attorney and U.S. marshal for the northern, middle and southern districts and judge vacancies in the middle and southern districts."Obama seeks new federal law officers for state".
Another fine Jebacy: a "fiscal time bomb"
"State lawmakers learned this week that former Gov. Jeb Bush's controversial Medicaid reform plan from 2005 includes a time bomb for hospitals: A $300 million penalty."
Who are these idiots?
Just informed of the penalty, legislative leaders now are scrambling in the waning days of the lawmaking session to pass special budget language that asks the federal government to give the state more time."Jeb Bush's Medicaid legacy frets lawmakers". See also "Medicaid reform left a fiscal time bomb in Florida Legislature".
From the "values" crowd
"Public libraries apparently have become victims of the rampant budget cutting underway in Tallahassee to make ends meet. According to a news release just received from the Florida Library Association, 'an appropriations conference committee for the House and Senate have agreed to eliminate all funding for Florida's State Aid to Public Libraries program.'" "State library funding cut?". More: "Florida libraries lose funding" and "Closings, service cuts likely as Florida axes library money".
Still more from the "values" crowd
"Florida arts funding shrivels".
A degree of "drastic"
"Florida's public schools were breathing easier after finding that funding cuts will not be as drastic as had been expected." "Legislature spares Florida public schools from the worst". See also "Schools get their funds".
Update: "A move to fight greenhouse gases and another to allow offshore drilling canceled each other out on a chaotic last day of the legislative session." "Green bill, drilling proposal both fall".
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board commends the compromise that "sets a goal of having 20 percent of [Florida's] electricity generated by clean (and mostly renewable) energy sources by 2020", but finds it "distressing to think that this could all be for naught if the House tries to use this bill to fast-track an end to the 19-year-old prohibition against drilling for oil and natural gas in state waters."
"Eye on the ball".
Just a little bit ...
"Lawmakers would let the Seminole Tribe offer the game - but only at its flagship casino in Hollywood, Fla." "House agrees to blackjack at 1 tribal site". See also "House gives counter offer on gambling" and "House offers blackjack in Broward County".
No charge ...
"Roger Bentley paid West Melbourne $243.81 for responding to a crash in January caused after he made an improper turn. Bentley won't get his money back, but he is still glad Florida lawmakers just passed a law that prohibits charging for police and fire response to crashes." "Law forbids crash billing".
Sumthin's gotta give
"5-foot alligator found swimming in pool".
"The fate of Florida Forever now rests in a few powerful hands. With a little help from the sugar lobby, the largest environmental land-buying program in the nation still could survive, at least in a dramatically slimmed-down fashion."
"Future of Florida Forever depends on sugar's support".
"The embezzlement of students' future"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial Board: "The Legislature's tuition-hike mechanism for Florida's colleges and universities represents only half the embezzlement of students' future. The other half is Bright Futures, the state-funded scholarship." "Bright Futures should be reformed, not cheated".
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Legislators flunk fixing scholarship".
"Florida's felony arrestees may have to submit DNA".
"The bill (HB 1171) allowing consumers to pay higher, unregulated rates to buy property insurance from highly capitalized national insurers passed the Senate on a 27-9 vote Friday. But Gov. Charlie Crist has long opposed bids by the large financially sound national companies who have annually sought double-digit rate increases and is expected to veto the bill." "Lawmakers vote to deregulate some Fla. insurance".
See also "Hurricane insurance rates will go higher". Related: "Citizens insurance hikes win approval in Florida Legislature" and "A blow to Fla. homeowners: 10% insurance hike".
"Text messaging is an everyday habit for many, but if public officials use it to talk about public business, they could be violating the law." "Texting by public officials: Does it violate Sunshine laws in meetings?".
The Latest Rumor
Yesterday we relayed this bit of gossip:
Mel Martinez resigns soon; Crist appoints caretaker - Jim Smith - and announces his candidacy for Sen."If only ..." (scroll down).
Now this little gem is making the rounds:
[Jebbie] has consistently and wisely laid low since leaving the governor's mansion in 2007, mindful of Bush fatigue. But Jeb was always the ambitious one. He was always the one who was going to be president. So it's hard not to look at his re-emergence [in the latest silly GOPer re-branding effort, called what they're calling the National Council for a New America] as strategically significant, perhaps an attempt to position himself for a Senate run next year. Could Bush's involvement with NCNA be a sort of trial run, to see whether people are ready for another Bush on the national stage? As [Todd Beeton] wrote on Monday, Chris Cillizza is reporting that Jeb's successor, Charlie Crist, is a "near lock" to run for Senate and will be announcing by May 5. Jeb already had to subsume his own presidential ambitions for his younger brother. It's hard to believe that Jeb would now be willing to let his younger...and tanner...governor step on what could be his one shot at the Senate."Here Comes Jeb!"
"Smaller crowd marches for immigration reform in Orlando".
"It took more than two decades. But it will soon be the law of this state that a police officer can stop a motorist for one reason: not wearing a seat belt."
Year in and year out, the idea known as primary enforcement went nowhere in a state Capitol with a strong libertarian streak. The arguments were familiar: It's the intrusion of Big Brother. Police have better things to do. Lately, African-American legislators voiced concerns that giving police that extra authority would encourage racial profiling."Seat belt enforcement law a victory for many".
"Florida governor gets bill to end retiree double-dipping". See also "New rules on double-dipping on public jobs await Crist signature".
"Leon Clerk of Courts announces furloughs".
"Former and current foster children could soon get access to their own records to help with their medical histories, Social Security cards, birth certificates and other information after legislation passed Friday." "Bill gives foster kids access".