"Get ready for smaller — and more expensive — government. The $66.5 billion Florida budget that rolled off the presses Tuesday packs the biggest combination of tax and fee increases in two decades." "With new budget, get ready to pay new, higher fees".
The Miami Herald editorial board write today that "lawmakers punted this session rather than make tough calls."
Floridians should know that lawmakers don't deliberately set out to make a mess of things. In good times, political shenanigans and partisan politics are less noticeable. However, tough times require that lawmakers set aside ideology in favor of negotiation and statesmanship. The 2009 Legislature blew this test."Wheezing across legislative finish line".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Two months ago, Florida legislators convened in Tallahassee facing historic budget pressures. They could have risen to the challenge by revamping the state tax code. They could have made it broader, fairer and better able to provide enough money to pay for services like health care and education. They could have done more to streamline state government." "A duct-tape budget".
Scott Maxwell chimes in: "Anytime you try to find the good, the bad and the ugly in a legislative session, you usually find yourself waist-deep in bad and up to your neck in ugly. But we had a little bit of all three this past time. So here's a rundown:" "Legislative session is a bit of good, bad and ugly".
Thank 'ye Mr. President
The Palm Beach Post editorial board points out that
the Republican-dominated Legislature had about $5 billion from the federal stimulus package that didn't earn a single GOP vote in the U.S. House. That includes $1.1 billion for education that the state will get only if the feds overlook the sub-par share legislators have given to schools recently. So if Florida's Republican lawmakers want to pat somebody on the back, it should be President Obama."Obama: Savior of state GOP".
CANF wants more
"Just weeks after Congress eased travel restrictions to Cuba for exiles with family members on the island, the calls for even broader change in U.S.-Cuba policy are growing stronger. But the possibility is dividing South Florida's Cuban community."
"We have to do something," Cuban American National Foundation President Francisco "Pepe" Hernandez said Thursday. "If not, I'm going to die old, without seeing change in Cuba.""Cuban American National Foundation calls for easing of U.S. sanctions and a dialogue with Cuba".
The foundation, the most powerful Cuban exile group in the United States, this week urged the Obama administration to "break from the past" and open dialogue with the Cuban government. Once a hard-line supporter of tough sanctions against Cuba, the group sent a 14-page report to the Obama administration calling for an easing of restrictions.
It all depends on what you mean by "received"?
"In a case watched by elections officials across Florida, a judge Monday effectively upheld Palm Beach Mayor Jack McDonald's one-vote victory in a February runoff by rejecting a challenger's claim that as many as 14 additional ballots should have been counted."
Circuit Judge David Crow ruled against McDonald foe Gerry Goldsmith, who filed a lawsuit claiming up to 13 absentee ballots and one provisional ballot were improperly rejected by elections officials."McDonald wins Palm Beach mayoral recount ruling".
While siding against Goldsmith, Crow said the Palm Beach County elections office should have used a "better procedure" to collect absentee ballots from the post office on Election Day.
Crow's ruling also says Florida legislators should clarify a portion of state law that says an absentee ballot must be "received" by the elections supervisor by 7 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.
In what is believed to be the first attempt by a court to define when a ballot has been "received," Crow agreed with Goldsmith that a ballot that reaches a designated elections post office box by 7 p.m. should be treated the same as a ballot that reaches the elections office itself by that deadline.
But Crow said Goldsmith failed to prove that the 13 disputed absentee ballots did in fact reach the P.O. box by that time.
"Crist and members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida will be on hand Wednesday as legislators continue work on the remaining unresolved issue of the session -- the gambling agreement. Crist and Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp arrived at a meeting of the gambling negotiators late Tuesday to keep the pressure on as progress stalled on the main issues dividing the House and Senate on a gambling deal." "Seminole gaming pact still elusive in Tallahassee". See also "Gambling deal near, but not for blackjack". Related: "House says no deal on blackjack".
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: " Florida needs a compact with the Seminole Indian Tribe before it can reap a penny from the expansion of gambling at the tribe's casinos. That reality has been lost on too many state lawmakers, who have allowed Florida's struggling parimutuel industry to hijack the debate in an effort to expand gambling at dog and horse tracks and jai alai frontons statewide." "Save Seminole deal".
"He's a candidate"
"Three months after starting to raise money for a U.S. Senate race, former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio on Tuesday confirmed the obvious: He's a candidate." "Marco Rubio makes it official, announces Senate run". See also "Rubio to run for Senate".
Adam Smith: "Crist [if he runs] would be the overwhelming favorite against Rubio, but the Miami Republican could be a potent challenger in this uncertain political climate, with many in the GOP still livid about Crist campaigning for President Barack Obama's stimulus package."
The influential group Club for Growth heralded Rubio's entrance and praised his conservative record while contrasting it with Crist's."Marco Rubio faces long odds in run for a Senate seat".
If Rubio can show viability through grass roots support and money raising, say backers, he could draw significant financial support nationally from Republicans eager to embrace a staunch conservative.
"Charlie Crist left us," said Tony DiMatteo, a Republican state committeeman from Crist's home county of Pinellas, citing Crist's support for the stimulus package and his appointing a Democrat to the Florida Supreme Court.
"We don't need another Arlen Specter," said DiMatteo, adding that Crist leaving the governor's office could make that and other Republican-held Cabinet seats vulnerable. "We need Republican senators, and Marco Rubio would be one of those senators."
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial Board: "Is there hope for SunRail, the commuter-rail project proposed to link west Volusia County with the downtown Orlando area and Osceola County?" "Worth another try". Related: "Negotiators agree on state budget, after one last SunRail discussion".
"In a major turnaround, the Obama administration intends this week to order a review of the spacecraft program that NASA had hoped would one day replace the space shuttle, the Orlando Sentinel has learned." "Obama plans to order full review of NASA's Ares I, Orion plans".
"This time there is some unusual opposition"
"With a nudge from Gov. Charlie Crist, the great Florida property tax debate is back on."
Proposed property tax cuts, approved late Friday with little fanfare, hold big savings for businesses and first-time home buyers while creating new winners and losers. But this time there is some unusual opposition: the business community."Florida's property tax debate is on again".
Running government like a business
"The Legislature's Republicans have fulfilled their longtime promise to run government like a business. State government now resembles a mix of Chrysler, Lehman Brothers and Bernie Madoff." "Zing! gives legislators the business".
Jump on in ... the water's warm
"Scientists believe a fish kill in a Sarasota County lake was likely caused by a toxic algae bloom." "Scientists test fish kill in Sarasota river".
Kottkamp lawyers up
"Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp has hired a high-powered legal duo to defend him against an ethics complaint over his use of state planes." "Florida Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp hires top legal talent for ethics complaint defense".
"Bolstered by $907 million in federal stimulus money and $800 million in new fees, lawmakers are boasting that they held public schools harmless from the deep cuts and protected their constituents from tax increases." "Big Bend schools, taxpayers feel budget pinch". Related: "Central Florida schools say budget disaster averted".
Alexander "in no particular hurry"
"When the 2009 session's regular business ended Friday, just 120 of Crist's appointees — including several agency heads — had won a confirmation vote by senators, who are required to approve their appointments."
The others, named to the boards of dozens of state and local agencies, were passed over, even though the confirmation process is rarely controversial or contested."Senate skips approval of 173 Crist appointees to state boards".
Sen. J.D. Alexander, R- Lake Wales, who chairs the Ethics and Elections committee that oversees confirmations, said last week that no one from Crist's office had pushed for the appointments, and he was in no particular hurry to push them through.
"Americans didn't vote for a Rush to failure"
"The national Democratic Party has come up with five ideas for needling Rush Limbaugh on a West Palm Beach billboard, and is asking Democrats to vote for their favorite."
Out of "tens of thousands of submissions," party leaders have picked these five top contenders, Jen O'Malley Dillon, Democratic National Committee executive director, said in an email sent today to supporters."How to razz Rush Limbaugh? Democrats have five ways".
* "Americans didn't vote for a Rush to failure"
* "Hope and change cannot be Rush'd"
* "Failure is not an option for America's future"
* "We can fix America, just don't Rush it"
* "Rush: Say yes to America"
"Florida's public universities dodged deep cuts"
"Florida's public universities dodged deep cuts in the state budget package coming up for a vote this week but will still have to consider slashing their spending the next two years, university officials say." "Budget trade-offs spare Florida universities for now".
"Fundamental changes in how [we] consumes water"
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board - "Tuesday's drought summit at the Tampa Convention Center made one thing clear: The region needs to make fundamental changes in how it consumes water." "Summit on water falls short".
From the "values" crowd
"The Sunshine State's gloomy economy is forcing lawmakers to concede a politically incorrect reality: Bright Futures, the merit-based scholarship that has helped send more than 1 million students to public college in Florida, has gotten too expensive for the state." "Scholarships may have dark future".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "It's rare these days for the Legislature to pass a bipartisan bill that could deal effectively with a serious problem. It's rare for members of both parties to clap when a bill passes. But last week in Tallahassee, both happened."
Publicity over the Rush Limbaugh doctor shopping case probably stalled things in 2004 and 2005. But this year the House sponsors - Reps. Kelly Skidmore, D-Boca Raton, Kurt Kelly, R-Ocala, and Marcelo Llorente, R-Miami - got input from all groups early. Even still, the issue went down to the last week, when even good bills can get trampled in the rush."Stopping fraud, saving lives". See also "Drug-tracking database bill awaits Crist's approval".
During debate, legislators recounted tragic anecdotes from their districts. The Senate passed it 39-0. The House passed it 103-10. In a session of failure on most big issues, this success deserves a standing ovation.
"Precisely the kind of tract that should be preserved"
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "At first look, a proposal for Hillsborough County to sell Cone Ranch to private investors seems preposterous. After all, the 12,000 undeveloped acres near the headwaters of the Hillsborough River is precisely the kind of tract that should be preserved. And the county already owns it." "Round up facts on Cone Ranch deal".
No raises for years, and now a pay cut
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "After three years without any pay raises, it now appears that all [state employees] who earn $45,000 and more will take a 2-percent cut under the state budget being finalized this week in the Legislature." "Mixed signals".
"Overzealous prosecution no substitute for rational policy"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "A slam-dunk, 9-0 decision by the Supreme Court is as rare lately as a bipartisan vote on Capitol Hill. So when the justices issued a unanimous decision this week to ban the use of identify-theft laws to prosecute immigrants, it is clear that they found an indisputably flagrant abuse of the legal process. Was it ever." "Court strikes blow for immigrant rights".