Crist kow tows to religious right
"The office of Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland has issued a statement, saying the teenage girl who ran away from her Muslim home in Columbus, Ohio, to evangelical Christians in Orlando, should be returned."
"Child welfare agencies and authorities in Ohio and Franklin County are fully capable of providing for the security and well-being of Ohio's children," said the statement. "The governor believes this is a family matter and therefore would most appropriately be handled here in Ohio with the assistance of the child welfare and foster care system."And WTF is this about:
Fathima Rifqa Bary, 17, is currently living with a foster family in the Orlando area. She fled Columbus aboard a Greyhound bus in July, saying her father had threatened to kill her because she had abandoned his faith -- Islam -- and become a Christian.
Her father, Mohamed Bary, a jeweler and Amway distributor, says that never happened. A Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation supports his claim. So does Franklin County Children's Services, the child welfare agency serving Columbus.
Amanda Wurst, a spokeswoman for Strickland, who is an ordained Methodist minister, first issued the statement yesterday. It puts Strickland at odds with Florida's Gov. Charlie Crist.
Three weeks ago, Crist issued a statement, saying he was grateful for a decision by Orange Circuit Judge Daniel Dawson to keep Rifqa in Florida."Ohio governor: Send Rifqa Bary back".
Earlier that day, Crist had sent two powerful figures - Rob Wheeler, his top lawyer; and George Sheldon, secretary for the Florida Department of Children and Families to a hearing at which the judge ruled that Rifqa should stay in Florida, at least temporarily.
Stop the madness
Douglas C. Lyons: "Oil and gas rigs off Florida's coast?"
Why not? It may not be the best public policy for a state that's made its reputation, and a considerable tourism industry, from its beaches. But it'll cement Florida's legacy as the laboratory for just about every right-wing political initiative under the sun."Don't look now, but oil rigs in our future".
Florida has gone through a revolution the past decade. The state now boasts of  tax cuts on just about everything,  faith-based prisons,  private school vouchers, standardized tests,  the elimination of affirmative action and  a plethora of privatization efforts to create a new stimulus package. If some state legislators have their way,  voters would put a definition that life starts "when biological development begins" into the Florida Constitution along with  language to outlaw "Obamacare."
Still, "drill-baby-drill" is the big one.
"Will LeMieux be ready to leave gracefully?"
Steve Bousquet on "what could be the biggest challenge that faces George LeMieux, Florida's so-called placeholder senator, as he keeps the seat warm for (they hope) his patron, Gov. Charlie Crist."
Now that Crist has handed a lifetime of privilege to LeMieux, the new senator will find that Washington can be an extremely intoxicating place."Senate seat may be too comfy to just keep warm".
Right about the time LeMieux will feel truly accustomed to his surroundings, he'll be tapped on the shoulder and told to make room for an elected senator.
Will LeMieux be ready to leave gracefully? There's an undeniable power of the place, the political intrigue, the history that seems to lurk around every corner.
RPOFer pissing match
"Argenziano lashes out at Lopez-Cantera".
"Democratic Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink refused to say whether she supports Congressional Democrats’ government-backed health insurance proposal, known as the 'public option,' despite her GOP gubernatorial opponent Attorney General Bill McCollum’s demands. Attorney General Bill McCollum, the presumptive GOP candidate for governor, pilloried President Barack Obama’s and the Democrats’ public option and challenged Sink state her position on the issue." "Sink still mum on public option".
Florida Commission on Ethics gives PSC Commissioner a pass
"In a closed door hearing, the Florida Commission on Ethics Friday dismissed a complaint against Public Service Commissioner Lisa Edgar for using her aide to communicate with a utility executive." "Ethics panel dismisses complaint against PSC member".
The Tampa Tribune editorial board writes that "if PSC is given the benefit of the doubt, these acts reveal an alarming coziness between the regulators and regulated. ... She rightly wants a grand jury to investigate the PSC. It will probably take such high-powered, independent scrutiny to determine whether utilities exercise undue influence. PSC's unseemly links to industry have persisted through numerous reform efforts." "Investigate PSC muddle".
Meantime, "PSC spokeswoman Cynthia Muir got into a physical confrontation with a TV news crew when a reporter attempted to ask Commission Chairman Matthew Carter a question."
But when it comes to Gary Siplin ...
... the regulators are all action: "Sen. Gary Siplin used his position to bully a sheriff's deputy in a dispute over parking at a football game in 2006 and should be disciplined by the full Senate, the state Ethics Commission recommended today." "Panel finds state senator violated ethics". See also "Commission finds Sen. Gary Siplin violated ethics laws".
One in five Floridians may become eligible for Medicaid
"The national healthcare debate misses one key point for Florida and other states: how to handle the cost of Medicaid's likely expansion."
As national politicians feud over "public option'' health insurance, state lawmakers are far more concerned with plans to greatly expand a different government-run healthcare program: Medicaid."Florida counts cost of likely Medicaid expansion". See also "" and "".
A state-federal program, Medicaid insures poor children, seniors, pregnant women and disabled people -- a total of 2.7 million people in Florida.
And that number could grow by 1.3 million -- at an additional annual cost of $4.3 billion to state and federal government -- if the congressional healthcare bills that call for a massive nationwide expansion of the program win approval.
About one in five Floridians would then be eligible for Medicaid in a state where 20 percent of the population lacks insurance coverage.
Medicaid spending already exceeds undergraduate education funding in Florida. It consumes nearly 27 percent of the state's $66.5 billion budget. Also, the state-funded portion of the program faces a $1.5 billion deficit next year.
"Trial lawyers and Big Business don't agree on much, but both are now opposing Gov. Charlie Crist's new Seminole gambling deal."
The Florida Justice Association, the state's trial lawyer group, is strongly against the gambling pact because of provisions that exempt the tribe from most lawsuit liability, said general counsel Paul Jess."Trial lawyers, Big Business allied against Seminole gambling pact".
The News Service of Florida reports today that the trial lawyers' frequent foe, the Associated Industries of Florida, also will come out against the gambling deal next week. The business group doesn't like that the Seminole tribe would gain exclusive rights blackjack and slots outside Broward and Miami-Dade counties, shutting pari-mutuels out of the casino business.
Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "Attorneys for several Florida counties say these large travel aggregators have been cheating the state (and others) of bed taxes for years. Estimates vary. Steven Wolens, a Texas attorney representing Broward and Orange counties in their lawsuits against the "dot-coms," puts the losses at $200 million statewide, over several years. Pinellas County officials analyzed bookings, and say about $3.5 million in state and local taxes were lost in that county last year."
The losses stem from the way online travel sites do business. Typically, a site will buy blocks of hotel rooms at a deeply discounted rate -- that $250 room booked through the Internet may have netted only $150 for the hotel owner -- then rent the rooms to individual consumers at a markup. Since their inception, dot-coms have insisted that they owe tax only on the wholesale room rates they pay to the hotel owners -- a position that appears to directly contravene Florida law. Sam McClelland, deputy tax collector for tax administration in Pinellas County, says their audit shows that dot-coms are charging their customers tax based on the "retail" price -- but only paying state sales and county tourist-development tax on the "wholesale" price and pocketing the difference.It gets worse:
The dot-coms are pushing for a federal exemption that could wipe away all obligation to pay sales and bed taxes. Earlier this week, they were behind a proposed amendment to the Travel Promotion Act that purported to "clarify" federal law to say that taxes were due only on the wholesale rate. Due to the vagueness of the wording, the amendment would have actually allowed the dot-coms to escape paying taxes altogether, according to several attorneys who have been following the issue.Much more here: "Bed-tax dodge threatens state, local budgets".
The potential loss could easily top $1 billion nationwide -- a harsh blow to counties and state governments already struggling in tough economic times, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a national think tank that looks at state and federal budget issues. Tax expert Michael Mazerov says Florida could lose more than $72 million in state and local taxes if the amendment makes it into federal law -- and it gets worse. If this provision becomes law, it could encourage large hotel chains in Florida to form their own online travel companies, potentially wiping out another $581 million in annual revenue to the state. That would hurt counties that rely on that revenue to promote tourism and build amenities such as convention centers to draw more business into their local economies and fill local hotels and restaurants.
More to go
"History suggests Florida real estate prices haven't yet hit bottom".
What's wrong with Tampa?
"Critics call him a 'toxic asset' for Fox News Channel who "passes off lies as journalism," citing as Exhibit A his claim that President Obama is a racist."
Left-leaning MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann derided him as an "uneducated, imperceptive panicky whack job" after a segment where he misspelled the word "oligarchy" on a chalkboard.Floridian Tim Curtis networks with
But even during a boycott that has convinced more than 60 advertisers to move their commercials from his show to other spots on the channel, Fox News host Glenn Beck scored important coups this week — watching presidential advisor Van Jones resign after Beck spent weeks assailing his history, political views and public statements on his radio and television shows.
800 other Tampa Bay area 912 Project members online, visiting town hall meetings on health care reform, including the acrimonious Aug. 6 public forum in Ybor City, which drew national attention."Glenn Beck: Liar or eye-opener?".
"(Beck) is giving voice to what I have believed my whole life," said Curtis, 52, a Tampa mortgage broker who has listened to Beck since he started his first radio talk show on Tampa talk station WFLA-AM (970) back in January 2000. "For many of us, it's about our core values as Americans ... Beck just has the microphone." ...
Even as critics insist that his emotional and dramatic arguments strain credulity and twist facts, fans like Curtis see a charismatic symbol — an entertaining, conservative champion who articulates the frustration and fear they feel as the country faces daunting challenges.
"Glenn Beck tends to make you think things through on your own," said Jackie Payne, 58, of Palm Harbor, who began listening to Beck on local radio back in 2000, when he focused on the struggle over Florida during the presidential election and hit his stride as a talk show host.
"How many people are reading the constitution for themselves?" said Payne, who distrusts President Obama's plans to overhaul the country's health care system. "He makes people wake up and not just listen to sound bites."
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "The proportion of household incomes spent on transportation by residents in the Tampa Bay area ranks among the highest in the nation. How people here get around directly affects the region's job market, wages, housing and quality of life. The issue is as much about effectively raising personal incomes as it is about giving commuters more options and cutting travel times." "Getting on board for transit".
Domestic partner benefits
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board:
University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft served her institution and her community well last week in announcing that USF would extend benefits to the domestic partners of its employees. The announcement was but a small part of Genshaft's annual "State of the University" address. But it marked a big step forward in social policy — and also for the university's bottom line."Good social policy, good business".
Florida's python problem
"Wildlife officials seize 'monster' 18-foot python in Apopka" ("an 18-foot-long, 400-plus-pound Burmese python who had enjoyed a swell existence in an Apopka-area backyard feeding on rabbits").
"Crist has sent us an inexperienced crony"
Former Miami mayor, Maurice Ferre: "Florida is at the bottom of most national social, health and educational indicators. Yes, we're told, it's cheaper to live in Florida, and taxes are lower in conjunction with a high quality of life. Not true anymore."
In fact, while wages are lower in Florida and solid job opportunities are fewer, now the cost of living here is moving higher. Since Florida is, for the first time since World War II, losing population and our economy has been based on growth, the fact that we have no state income tax puts an unbearable burden on regressive Florida real estate and sales taxes."Passing over men and women experienced in the corridors of power, and those who have relationships with key decision makers in the Congress, the governor has appointed a political operative with no federal or legislative experience."
I am sure LeMieux is a perfectly nice fellow and I understand he is a formidable fundraiser for the governor. But the idea of appointing a lawyer, whose real avocation is lobbying and ignoring many qualified individuals with real federal or state legislative experience is the wrong choice for our state."Florida needs a pro in Senate, not a rookie".
Crist has given us a rookie when we need an experienced hand.
LeMieux's role as the chief negotiator of the recently announced gaming compact with the Seminole Indians, where he served the state on a ``pro-bono'' basis, should be examined in light of the almost $1 million the Seminoles have contributed to the Republican Party of Florida since Crist was nominated for governor, and at least $200,000 the RPOF paid to Mr. LeMieux's law firm. Perhaps this only creates the impression of impropriety, but that alone is enough.
At a time when we truly need Florida's best in Washington, Crist has sent us an inexperienced crony. That is a missed opportunity for Florida.
Ferre may jump into Senate race
More Maurice Ferre: "Leaders in Orlando's Puerto Rican community participated Wednesday afternoon in unpublicized meetings that could be the start of a political campaign to elect one of their own to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Mel Martínez."
Various sources have confirmed that they received invitations to meet with Maurice E. Ferré, a Democrat and former mayor of Miami who in 1973 became the first native of Puerto Rico elected to that position in the states."Former Miami mayor rallying Puerto Rican supporters for U.S. Senate run".
Ferré could not be reached for comment Thursday, but sources in Orlando said he was close to making a decision about running for the Senate seat. Another Democrat, Kendrick Meek, is already running. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio are candidates on the Republican side.
Late to the game
"Threats and angry words. Tales of woe and pleas for help on both sides of the issue. That's the message in the steady stream of calls and e-mails that County Council members have been getting for weeks." "Public involvement rises as government funds fall".