As Charlie grubs for dollars, Florida's economy falters
"Census bureau: Florida's median income suffers 3.9% decline, biggest drop in U.S. in 2008".
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Census a warning sign on economy" ("Latest Census figures a wake-up call for South Florida").
"A monopoly that's bad for democracy"
"The nation's largest election company is purchasing a rival in a major deal that will make it the sole provider of voting machines in 65 of Florida's 67 counties and much of the nation."
Election Systems & Software's $5 million acquisition of Diebold Inc.'s voting company has prompted fears that the private company will become a monopoly that's bad for democracy."Florida's maverick election supervisor, Leon County's Ion Sancho, is more worried."
Last week, another voting company, Hart InterCivic, asked a federal court to declare the transaction an illegal monopoly. A U.S. senator also asked the Department of Justice's antitrust division for a review. ...
Announced Sept. 2, the deal worries election supervisors and reform advocates in Florida, the nation's largest swing state and a proving-ground for election controversies since the disputed 2000 presidential election.
"ES&S acted like a monopoly even before it decided to become a monopoly,'' Sancho said, calling the purchase ``deleterious to democracy.''"Vote machine monopoly seen".
Sancho said the company once attempted to pressure him into signing a contract that would have forced his staff to rely on ES&S to lay out ballot designs, supply the ballot paper and print the ballots. ...
ES&S made the touch-screen voting machines that had a disproportionately high number of non-votes in the 2006 congressional race to replace Rep. Katherine Harris. She was the secretary of state during the 2000 elections crisis that led to the banning of punch card machines in Florida, some of which ES&S supplied.
Mel missed his Orlando family so much ... he moved to Tampa.
Mel missed his Orlando family so much, he quit his job in DC ... and he moved to Tampa.
"Legal Times, which covers legal and lobbying issues in Washington, reported late Tuesday that Florida's former senator will become a partner in the Washington and Tampa offices of the DLA Piper law firm. DLA Piper's law firm says the company has 3,500 lawyers in 29 countries throughout the United States, Asia, Europe and the Middle East." "Report: Mel Martinez will join law firm in Tampa". See also "Mel Martinez headed to lobbying job?".
Entrepreneurs in action
"Two prominent GOP donors from Tampa Bay, James MacDougald of St. Petersburg and Greg Capello of Tampa have launched The Free Enterprise Nation, to combat excessive government spending and bureaucracy." "Tampa Bay businessmen launch free enterprise foundation".
You know it'll be a regular RPOFer laff riot when the website opens with a quote from that intellectual giant, Lou Dobbs.
The first three (of five) goals in the group's "statement of purpose" mimic the boring right-wing attacks on public education, police and firefighter wages, and public sector defined benefit retirement plans (which have largely been replaced in the private sector with cheap defined contribution plans)*:
- Educate businesses and workers in the private sector of the American economy about the true costs of government and public education."The Free Enterprise Nation!"
- Disclose the pay and benefits disparities that exist between public sector and private sector workers.
- Consolidate and summarize information concerning the enormous and unsustainable costs to private sector taxpayers for the maintenance of public sector pre-age 65 retirements.
One has to wonder if the geniuses who set up this group will disclose the source of their income, retirement and otherwise.
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*Chances are, the old guy packing bags at your local Publix can't stop working and enjoy his golden years because he doesn't have a defined benefit retirement plan, and instead had only a cheesy defined contribution plan (that is, if he had anything at all other than SS).
More entrepreneurs in action
"Eglin contractor sentenced in fraud scheme".
As Charlie campaigns ...
... "millions of Floridians are without health insurance". "Floridians marching out of state, lack health care".
More: "Florida health care costs soar, report says", "One-fourth of Brevard's working-age adults uninsured" and "Florida ranks 4th worst in U.S. on medical insurance".
And then there's this: "Are you drinking dirty water? Florida among 10 worst states for tap water".
"Coming to an Elks' lodge near you."
"Republican youth outreach. Coming to an Elks' lodge near you." A nice turn of a phrase, courtesy of a Buzz commenter.
"Florida behind Georgia, Alabama and even Mississippi"
Paul Cottle, a professor and undergraduate director in the Department of Physics at Florida State University, and a member of the committee that drafted Florida's new science standards:
Florida House Republican and speaker hopeful Erik Fresen of Miami has filed a bill for next spring's legislative session that is being touted as a way to raise standards for high-school graduation. But in science, Fresen's bill would leave Florida behind Georgia, Alabama and even Mississippi."Paul Cottle: HB61 leaves science behind".
Maxwell: The first PSC story
involved a top PSC staffer who was caught partying with his wife at the home of an FP&L executive during the Kentucky Derby."Regulators' cozy ties set off sparks".
These publicly paid employees are supposed to regulate the utilities — not down mint juleps with them.
But it turned out that was just the beginning.
Next came news that other PSC staffers had been giving utility execs special access codes to their BlackBerrys. That meant they could swap secret messages — without leaving a paper trail.
State officials said they would check to see whether the messages can be recovered and whether any public-records laws were broken. But the utility execs probably needn't sweat. After all, this is Florida — where politicians are more likely to summon special interests to a fundraiser than a grand jury.
And if all that wasn't enough, one of the few outspoken members of the PSC — Commissioner Nancy Argenziano — says some of Tallahassee's veteran politicians have gotten so used to sucking up campaign cash from the utility companies that they'd sooner coronate than regulate them.
Two PSC staffers have resigned. Others were admonished or put on administrative leave. An investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is under way. And Argenziano has talked about involving either a state attorney or the FBI.
More PSC stories
"A state utility regulator who resigned this month after his bosses learned he partied with a Florida Power & Light official exchanged dozens of phone calls with FPL executives over five months, according to state records." "PSC regulator exchanged calls with FPL execs".
"Rules too lax to prevent spread of exotic reptiles in Florida"
Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "Stricter about constrictors".
Utility and franchise taxe boost
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "If the PSC approves Progress Energy’s request for a base rate increase of about 30 percent, local governments that charge utility and franchise taxes will get an unexpected boost in their tax collections next year." "Utility tax could help save energy".
Luv 4 sale
"To solidify his grip on the Florida Senate presidency following the 2010 election, Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne, is walking a familiar path: He is collecting as much money as possible from special interests to make sure his allies win elections."
Since May, a newly formed political committee that Haridopolos controls raked in $1.1 million. That's an average of $44,000 on each of the 26 days the committee reported getting checks, or slightly less than the median household income of a Florida family."Future Senate leader's fund raking in dollars".
The largest check, for $225,000, came from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington. Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida, based in Jacksonville, sent a check for $100,000 to Haridopolos' committee, as did the Petway Co., a Jacksonville insurance firm. Other donors ran the gamut of capital lobbying interests: agriculture, alcoholic beverages, hospitals and real estate development. ...
Asked whether special-interest money pollutes policymaking in Tallahassee, Haridopolos cited the millions of dollars that President Barack Obama received from labor unions in 2008.
And this liar has been hired by UF to teach children? More: "UF considered boosting Haridopolos' $75,000 salary" and "Haridopolos not enrolled since 2000, University of Arkansas says" ("Haridopolos, responding to his controversial hiring at the University of Florida, said last week that he was working toward a Ph.D. in history at the University of Arkansas.")
Special risk politics
A Bill Cotterell column we missed: "Using the state's retirement fund to reward friends and make themselves popular is nothing new for Florida legislators."
But one of these days — certainly not in the 2010 session, but eventually — somebody is going to do right by the hospital attendants over in Chattahoochee. The "unit training and rehabilitation" workers, better known as UTRs, have been trying to get special-risk retirement benefits for decades."Chattahoochee workers wait for fairness".
But the Legislature never does anything about it because it doesn't have to.
Special risk retirement was originally intended for police, prison officers, firefighters and other employees whose jobs have just what the term implies — a special risk. Instead of the standard 1.6-percent pension credit that all Career Service workers accrue, those in high-hazard jobs get their pensions calculated at 3 percent of their average salaries for each year's service.
The idea is not only to compensate them for the dangers of their jobs, although that would be reason enough to give them higher pensions. But special risk also allows them to retire younger, so agencies don't have cops and guards [note to Bill: they prefer to be called 'corrections officers'] who are well past their prime — hanging in there because they can't afford to quit.
Wonder what the "The Free Enterprise Nation" geniuses think about this?
"A Miami Beach mayoral candidate has been disqualified from the race for bouncing a check. ... LaRose said he will remain in the 2010 race for governor and the 2012 race for U.S. Senate as a Republican." "Miami Beach mayoral candidate bounced for check".