"The Senate voted 32-8 to approve the spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The House followed with a 75-43 vote, sending the budget to Gov. Charlie Crist." "Some winners, some losers in state budget". See also "Florida Legislature passes $66.5 billion budget", "$66.5 billion Florida budget passes" and "State Legislature passes budget in overtime session".
In "Small consolation", The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board argues that the "session could have been worse". The editors spend too much time slapping Charlie on the back ("Crist remained chipper and optimistic to the end") and chiding the Dems, to wit:
Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, was wise to remind Senate Democrats that if they all finally voted against the budget, "why would (Senate President Jeff Atwater) include you in anything again?"(Aside: Precisely what was it the Dems were "included" in this time 'round to which King, and by extension the editors refer?)
In reality, this budget was little more than
Jim Dandy Obama to the rescue!*, which the editors merely noted in passing:
Starting out with a $6 billion deficit, the budget was rescued by $5.3 billion in federal stimulus dollars that give breathing room to universities, public schools and other programs until the economic slide begins chugging uphill.The RPOFers simply put hard decisions off for another day.
"After some initial grumbling this session, the GOP-dominated Legislature embraced about $3 billion in stimulus money from President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress." "Recession-driven session ends".
"Leaning heavily on hoped-for federal dollars, Florida lawmakers voted Friday to increase spending on K-12 schools $28 a student next year." "Lawmakers OK school spending increase". See also "State's $66.5 billion budget is done, by nickels, dimes and a pile of stimulus cash".
Nevertheless, the "values" crowd didget their licks in:
The guardian ad litem program, which provides legal representation for foster children, lost $2.5 million. Funding for teacher professional development shrank 20 percent. Community care services for the elderly took a $1 million hit.That ought to make the RPOFer base happy.
- - - - - - - - - -
*With apologies to LaVern Baker & The Gliders.
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "It's maddening to review some of the ridiculous bills legislators consider important enough to send to the governor for his signature."
Two stand out: the well-publicized package that coddles the property insurance industry and a stealthy amendment that could keep the public and government regulators from challenging developers seeking to tap the state's waters."Fit for a veto".
"The Legislature on Friday overwhelmingly approved gaming bills that could allow poker rooms at horse and greyhound racing pari-mutuel facilities to expand playing times to 18 hours during weekdays and 24 hours on weekends while eliminating betting and buy-in caps." "Kennel club gets OK to grow gaming". See also "Legislature passes gambling deal with Seminoles" and "Lawmakers expand gambling".
Background: "Crist will negotiate — again — an agreement to let the Seminole Tribe install blackjack tables and slot machines at its casinos, but this time lawmakers won't take him to court." "Bill opens way for Crist, Seminoles to talk gaming compact".
Another Crist flop
"Energy reform fizzled statewide this year, with Gov. Charlie Crist failing to have his renewable energy goals passed." "From state law's rubble, local green-energy goals".
"The board of U.S. Sugar Corp. voted Friday in favor of Gov. Charlie Crist's latest proposal to buy much of its farmland for use in Everglades restoration. The deal -- to buy 73,000 acres of citrus and sugar cane land for $536 million -- must now go to a vote before the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District, which meets next week to review the latest proposal. The district would borrow the money, repaying the debt over 30 years with property taxes collected in all or part of 16 counties in Central and South Florida." "U.S. Sugar OK's land sale for Everglades restoration".
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "At last, Everglades restoration may actually happen".
Related: "Friendly fire: Burning in Everglades can actually be good".
Another fine Jebacy
"When the computer running the state's $2.2 billion unemployment program nearly crashed last summer, the Agency for Workforce Innovation called out for help with the 35-year-old mainframe — way out. With staffers unable to repair the system, the state shipped files to an IBM lab in the United Kingdom — and even experts there struggled with the antiquated technology." "Can Florida's 1970s-era computer handle surge in jobless claims?".
Children with keyboards
You knew this piece was going to be a laff riot when it began "[a]s an English major":
Obama gave his third prime-time press conference recently. As an English major, I paid more attention to the way Obama said things than to the things he said, and I noticed that he doesn't know how to talk about his own power."Will Penman: All hail to King Obama, long may his we-ness reign".
St. Johns River lawsuit
"Florida's water regulations are preventing cleanup of the St. Johns River and other polluted water bodies statewide, three environmental groups say in a lawsuit. The groups, including the St. Johns Riverkeeper, sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday, saying it allows the state to circumvent the Clean Water Act and this leads to problems such as continued algal blooms in the St. Johns." "Florida is evading clean water laws, lawsuit says".
"Leadership [sic] institute"
"In 2008, state Rep. Ray Sansom quietly inserted more than $8 million into the state budget for Northwest Florida State College to create a 'leadership institute.'" "Sansom's $8 million 'institute'".
All talk, no funding ...
"Budget reality hits GOP's get-tough-on-crime stance".
Tampa Bay area unemployment rate exceeds 10 percent
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board:
While the Labor Department announced Friday that the pace of layoffs slowed a bit in April, the nation's unemployment rate still rose to 8.9 percent, the highest in more than 25 years. So even though there's a faint hope that the economic recession may be easing a bit, there are still plenty of families in need. That is particularly true in the Tampa Bay area, where the unemployment rate exceeds 10 percent. "Act now to help newly needy".
"Sen. Nelson seeks $14 million for commercial launchpad".
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Tri-Rail deserves dedicated funding". The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Why Tri-Rail should live"
Feds step in
"Local government leaders learned Friday that a $7.2 billion portion of federal stimulus dollars is available for development of communications infrastructure, including broadband capacity in underserved areas." "Stimulus dollars could bring broadband service to rural areas"
"A slump that rivals the auto industry"
"With automobile sales in the dumps, it's not unreasonable to think that consumers would be buying motorcycles as typically cheaper alternatives to cars. But the two-wheeled world of transportation is suffering from a slump that rivals the auto industry's. In fact, motorcycle sales in Central Florida and across the nation have been in decline for nearly three years, local dealers say." "Credit crunch hurts motorcycle sales".
"Sen. Ken Pruitt, a top state Republican who founded Florida's Bright Futures college scholarship program, will leave office early to spend more time with his family in Port St. Lucie." "Author of Bright Futures scholarships to leave state Senate early". See also "Sen. Ken Pruitt, longtime legislative leader, to step down".
Another outsourcing genius bites the dust
"Visit Florida, the state's tax-assisted tourism promotion firm, announced Friday it is replacing its president and chief executive in a reshuffling that may save $1.2 million. Chris Thompson, the group's chief operating officer, will replace Bud Nocera as the head of Visit Florida."
He wouldn't say whether the board's action was tied to criticism of Nocera in February, when lawmakers blasted him for selecting a call center in Missouri to promote Florida as a tourism destination. ..."Visit Florida replaces president and CEO Bud Nocera".
Nocera earned $222,000 annually and last year received a $25,000 bonus. A Pinellas native and University of South Florida graduate, he was named Visit Florida's executive director in 2003 after the agency's original boss stepped down.
"The Florida legislator with the highest concentration of state employees in his district Friday appealed to Gov. Charlie Crist to veto a bill that would end 'double dipping' in the Florida Retirement System and state payroll." "Lawson lobbies Crist to veto 'double dipping' bill".
A Hillsborough thing
"For two months, Michelle B. Patty refused to answer questions about how she spent federal voter education money that she received from former elections supervisor Buddy Johnson." "Patty's radio show axed".
"Author of Bright Futures scholarships to leave state Senate early".
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial Board: "Local police agencies -- the Sheriff's Office, city police departments or the Beach Patrol -- provide law enforcement and ensure public safety. If the federal government has its way, those agencies, and thousands like them across the country, by 2014 will also be part of a domestic spying network." "Nationalized paranoia".
It is the worst kept secret in town: Crist will jump into the Senate race.
Meantime, "Check out Charlie Crist's resume. The man never stays put for long."
Six years in the state Senate, followed by an unsuccessful race for U.S. Senate and a stint as a state agency official. Two years as education commissioner. Four years as attorney general. Two-and-a-half as governor, and now he's thinking of running for the United States Senate."That political profile as much as anything suggests that Crist will soon declare that he does indeed want to go to Washington, with a goal of raising his national profile and positioning himself to run for even higher office."
It's worth recalling that when the Crist-for-Senate chatter began intensifying six months ago, it was laughed off as Democratic hooey by George LeMieux, Crist's former chief of staff and campaign guru, and still perhaps his closest adviser. ..."LeMieux called Crist pro-life, pro-gun and pro-adoption — a red meat line aimed squarely at the GOP's base."
So now, with an announcement expected very soon and Crist doing his best not to tip his hand, it seemed the logical place to search for clues as to his intentions was to visit LeMieux. His sixth-floor law office in downtown Tallahassee has a panoramic view of the Capitol across the street.
He scoffed at the idea that former House Speaker Marco Rubio of Miami, who already has entered the Senate race, would be a threat by running to the right of Crist in a Republican primary — the way Tom Gallagher did in the 2006 governor's race."Crist has accomplished more, I believe, in 2 1/2 years than most governors accomplish in four or even eight," LeMieux said [apparently with a straight face]." "Crist adviser sounds a lot like Senate campaign manager".
"Marco Rubio supported the largest tax increase in Florida history when he wanted to raise the sales tax by two or three pennies," LeMieux said of Rubio's 2007 tax swap (the Democratic Party already is using that as an anti-Rubio talking point).
Reliable GOPer and Jeb-toy Mike Thomas - who is willing to give Rubio a shot - begs to differ with Crist-flack Lemieux: First, "the Legislature undid more of Charlie Crist's 2007 insurance reforms, which threatened to bankrupt the state when the next big hurricane hits." And,
[w]hen you throw in Charlie's other failed initiatives — dropping property taxes like a rock, creating affordable health insurance, implementing a California-style renewable-energy policy, increasing education funding and becoming vice president — he has accomplished ... practically nothing."'New' GOP trotting out same old stuff".