"2.4 million Floridians living in poverty in 2008"
Paul Flemming: "Let we, who are able, be thankful we don't figure in poverty estimates released earlier this month by the U.S. Census bureau."
There were 2.4 million Floridians living in poverty in 2008, a definition that depends on family size. For a family of four with two children, for instance, it was income below $21,834 last year."The poor are with us, more than the year before".
Statewide, 18.4 percent of children 18 years old and younger were impoverished, a 6-percent jump from the 2007 estimate. Very nearly one in five children is poor.
The Gospel writer Matthew has Jesus tell his apostles, "For ye have the poor always with you."
I've heard lawmakers quote this Scripture to oppose increased social spending. But I've always taken it as an admonishment to be vigilant in our care, not because we can fix things but because it's important to lend a helping hand. Neither interpretation passes textual muster. Jesus was asking his friends to cut a friendly woman some slack as his crucifixion loomed.
LeMieux won't go away
"As Crist rival Marco Rubio has gained ground, LeMieux has quietly stepped up on behalf of his former boss. He co-headlined a Washington fundraiser for the governor last week and set up a political action committee, Protect America's Future, to funnel money to Crist and other political allies."
After Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe bucked the Republican establishment last month and endorsed Rubio, LeMieux sought to root out other potential defectors. At a private Capitol Hill luncheon with other Republican senators, LeMieux urged them to talk to him first before taking sides in the race. ..."Newly appointed senator supports Crist".
Two people familiar with LeMieux's politicking for Crist said he privately told some senators that a "shoe was about to drop'' in the race against Rubio.
Days after the Washington luncheon, Tallahassee lobbyist Rich Heffley launched an anti-Rubio website and the Crist campaign began attacking Rubio's claim that he never raised taxes.
Asked what he told his colleagues, LeMieux said, "I don't want to go into personal conversations that I've had with other senators.'' ...
His decision to open a political action committee has heightened expectations that he will challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in 2012.
"For those who thought George LeMieux was going to be passed by in the Senate and not be noticed by many people, the exact opposite is the truth,'' said U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who toured the Ryder Trauma Center in Miami Tuesday with LeMieux. "He's an extraordinary public servant.''
The best we can do?
"'We’ve talked about it a little bit,' says Gov. Charlie Crist". "Future in politics for Tim Tebow?".
Entrepreneurs in action
"Orlando-based ABC Liquors still expanding".
Oil drilling update
Scott Maxwell gives readers "an update on one of the biggest controversies facing the Sunshine State: oil drilling."
Earlier this year, it looked like the oil guys had lubed up the Legislature and drilling was on its way. House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon had heart-shaped oil slicks in his eyes and was trying to jam a bill through in a surprise campaign."Putting the brakes on skid toward oil drilling".
But now that the Senate has gotten involved, the urgency seems to have faded.
In fact, "deliberative" was the first word Altamonte Springs Republican Sen. Lee Constantine used to describe the expected debate. The second was "prudent."
Neither one sounds like a synonym for "speedy."
Related: "The St. Joe Company, second-largest private landowner in the state has yet to weigh in on the oil-drilling debate." "St. Joe quiet in drilling debate".
State sanctioned union busting
"A bill that would help create a commuter rail system in parts of Florida is being challenged by union leaders who call the proposal an attack on organized labor."
Florida AFL-CIO President Mike Williams said the Florida Department of Transportation, the Crist administration and Florida House want to allow the state to replace protected railroad workers with less qualified, less experienced non-union transit employees."Union leaders fight rail plans". See also "SunRail the same old bad deal?". See also "Florida AFL-CIO says it will 'aggressively' fight SunRail deal". Related: "Unexpected tax dollars could clear way for SunRail" and "Legislators plan for Dec. 3 start of rail special session".
"That threatens vital protections for thousands of workers and, by extension, the safety of the riding public,'' Williams said.
"Since he launched his bid for a U.S. Senate seat this year, Crist has left environmentalists feeling jilted. He canceled his climate summit. He didn't fight the Legislature's move to end funding for the popular Florida Forever environmental land-buying program. He signed a controversial bill changing the state's growth management law. And he has all but endorsed a proposal to allow drilling for oil near Florida's gulf beaches." "Crist losing green reputation".
"Stung by criticism of his extensive taxpayer-funded travel, Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp offered to repay the state when a Florida Highway Patrol trooper escorts him to and from political events in a state car."
The state's response: No thanks. Keep your money."Kottkamp's attempt to repay state is rejected".
Kottkamp, a Republican candidate for attorney general, is frequently on the road on official business.
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Beset by allegations of being too palsy-walsy with the industries it regulates, Florida's Public Service Commission should finally adopt reforms first recommended by a grand jury probing similar charges in 1992." "Let the sun shine on PSC business".
Florida "badly burned by mortgage-backed securities"
The Saint Petersburg Times editors: "Ohio's attorney general is suing the top three credit rating agencies for the loss of nearly $500 million in the state's retirement and pension funds. Florida should consider a similar action."
Florida also was badly burned by mortgage-backed securities. The state's investment pool for about 1,000 local governments bought at least $2.1 billion of these securities into 2007. The rating agencies vouched for them as being as safe as U.S. Treasury bonds. But in November 2007, the securities became toxic and the pool lost billions of dollars in paper value."Burned by junk rated as triple-A".
Florida was duped just as Ohio and so many other investors who thought they were being prudent by socking money in triple-A securities. A lawsuit is more than justified.
Accusing the Florida Legislature of doing a lousy job
Howard Troxler: "Can you win a lawsuit that accuses the Florida Legislature of doing a lousy job? Just such a claim was filed last week in Tallahassee by citizens unhappy with Florida's education system. ... The suit quotes many figures and claims:"
• The state has cut its share of school spending for years, forcing counties to raise their own taxes to keep up."Maybe the weight of statistics will convince the courts, as in the famous U.S. Supreme Court ruling on pornography, that they know 'high quality' when they (don't) see it."
• We rank low in per-student spending and in teacher salaries.
• We rank high in assaults, bullying, threats on teachers, drug use and weapons on campus.
• We rank low in graduation rates, test scores and the performance of minority, low-income and disabled students.
• We abuse standardized tests such as the FCAT to the point of hurting education instead of helping.
But this will require an extraordinary act of judicial activism. Writing the school budget each year could become a two-step process: The Legislature passes it; the courts review it to make sure it is "high quality.''"Can court tell lawmakers to do better?".
If our Legislature is hostile to education, it is still the Legislature elected by the people of Florida. To be sure, our election system is biased by campaign-money loopholes and rigged voting districts. If we addressed those factors, we might have a different Legislature.
But that is hard. To an extent, filing a lawsuit like this is asking the courts to do the work of democracy for us.
"You should start"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "If you're like us, or, we'd wager, most any of your neighbors, you probably spend little if any time thinking about where the waste goes every time your sink drains or your toilet flushes. But if you care about the health of the Kissimmee River, Osceola County's lakes, Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades and the coastal estuaries of South Florida, you should start." "Preserve the watersheds".
"Democratic challengers have failed to bring it"
"As epic battles go, U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite's Democratic challengers have failed to bring it in general elections."
The state and national Democratic parties, in turn, have failed to show up with cash and resources to help unseat Brown-Waite, a Brooksville Republican who has handily won re-election three times in a sprawling district drawn to favor the GOP."Brown-Waite challenger: Democrats gaining steam".
Tom Doolan, a 44-year-old Mascotte lawyer and one of three Democrats who have filed papers to run next year, says that at least three things are working in the blue party's favor this time around.
"The Sunshine State receives enough rays to power every home from Key West to Pensacola. It sits close to a powerful ocean current, which could generate electricity. And it could draw on the winds to light up homes. Yet these sources of green energy are largely untapped." "Plentiful, green energy goes untapped in Florida".
"As state legislators engage in fall committee meetings, they have also started to propose resolutions and bills for the 2010 session."
Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, is seeking a state Constitutional amendment that would repeal the class size limits passed in 2002, while others are seeking to ask voters to add into the state Constitution a law that allows people to opt out of any pending national health care system."Legislators propose measures for 2010 session".
Rep. Ron Saunders, D-Tavernier, is seeking to roll back the motor vehicle license and registration rate increases that went into place this past summer.
And 13 bills have been filed, each slightly different, to ban texting and cell phone use by motor vehicle drivers.
"The nine Supreme Court justices will hear oral arguments by Stop the Beach Renourishment Inc. and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on Wednesday in a case that could determine the fate of beach renourishment projects nationwide." "The Supreme Court will take up area restoration battle on Wednesday".
Want another slice?
Tab for lunches leaves bitter taste "It would be interesting to learn how a $9 slice of cheesecake helps someone find a job. That's one of the questions the Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance faces after WFLA-Ch. 8 investigated the alliance's records and discovered it spent more than $20,000 on food in just over a year.".
"Orlando may include transgenders in anti-bias law".
RPOFers don't like this, why? ...
... some gibberish 'bout the tenth amendment.
"Under reform in Florida:"
• 4 million residents who do not currently have insurance and 1.1 million residents who have nongroup insurance could get affordable coverage through the health insurance exchange."The 18.3 million residents of Florida will benefit as reform: "
• 2.5 million residents could qualify for premium tax credits to help them purchase health coverage.
• 3.2 million seniors would receive free preventive services.
• 565,000 seniors would have their brand-name drug costs in the Medicare Part D "doughnut hole'' halved.
• 216,000 small businesses could be helped by a small business tax credit to make premiums more affordable.
• Ensures consumer protections in the insurance market. Insurance companies will no longer be able to place lifetime limits on the coverage they provide, use of annual limits will be restricted, and they will not be able to arbitrarily drop coverage."Healthcare fix: Florida gains".
• Creates immediate options for people who can't get insurance today. Ten percent of people in Florida have diabetes, and 28 percent have high blood pressure -- two conditions that insurance companies could use as a reason to deny health insurance coverage. Reform will establish a high-risk pool to enable people who cannot get insurance today to find an affordable health plan.
• Ensures free preventive services. 36 percent of Florida residents have not had a colorectal cancer screening, and 18 percent of women over 50 have not had a mammogram in the past two years. ...
• Supports health coverage for early retirees. ...
Florida's 3.2 billion Medicare beneficiaries will benefit as reform lowers premiums by reducing Medicare's overpayments to private plans.
All Medicare beneficiaries pay the price of excessive overpayments through higher premiums -- even the 72 percent of seniors in Florida who are not enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan.
Bill Cotterell: "Some county elections supervisors are being swamped with voter petitions for twin constitutional amendments that would fundamentally change Florida politics." "Supervisor of Elections offices in Leon, other counties swamped with voter petitions".
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Early mediation between lenders and homeowners shows promise in stemming the foreclosure filings flooding trial courts. Having the two parties discuss loan modification before a judge gets involved saves time, court resources and, ideally, a homeowner's residence. It's encouraging to see Pinellas-Pasco Chief Judge Thomas McGrady join this wave of commonsense policy. The rest of Florida needs to follow." "Foreclosure help".
Mack draws opponent
"A new opponent is in the wings for U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, R-Fort Myers, as Cape Coral Democrat Jim Roach says he plans to enter the race. Roach, 57, who runs a computer consulting business, said his struggles with health insurance, and Mack’s seeming lack of awareness of how difficult attaining coverage for health care can be, are key reasons behind his decision to run."
Awarded the Bronze Star for his service as a helicopter tail gunner in Vietnam, Roach said he realizes running against Mack in this GOP-majority district can be "an uphill battle…but I think we need someone who can do a better job of representing the many, many interests we have in this area.”"Cape Coral Democrat to vie for Mack's House seat".
Mike Thomas: "If at first you don't succeed, keep screwing up."
That seems to be the mantra of some Republican legislators as they gear up once again to overturn the class-size amendment."Leave class-size limits alone: They work".
If this sounds familiar, it is. They have been at this since the amendment passed in 2002. It is a holy quest to undo that which people don't want undone.
Repeal would first require that two-thirds of legislators vote to put the measure back on the ballot. That will be hard enough.
Even if they succeed, the odds that 60 percent of voters then will agree that we should cram more kids into classrooms are about equal to the odds that the Florida State Seminoles will win in The Swamp on Saturday.
A 2006 poll by the St. Petersburg Times showed that 70 percent of voters are happy with smaller classes. If anything, the amendment is growing in popularity. Parents may not be up on teacher certifications and educational assessments, but they can count the number of students in their kids' classes. And they can calculate that more bodies means less attention for junior.
I've seen nothing to indicate that this sentiment has changed because of budget problems, the excuse given for this latest attempt to toss it.
If anything, there is a growing backlash against the ongoing cuts in education. The Legislature has spent this decade reducing its commitment to funding public schools, passing that burden to school districts and property taxes. This move only reinforces the perception that lawmakers are determined to shortchange education.
"Dark-horse DeLand candidate for governor has eye on reform".
Randy Schulz: "Not many who worked at the firm are talking, but Mr. Berger, who was a judge in Palm Beach County from 2002 until 2008, vented two weeks ago to The Post's Susan Spencer-Wendel."
Rothstein, Mr. Berger fumed, "really does deserve to be shot like a rabid dog.""Rothstein and his enablers".
Apparently, the firm had just two equity partners — those who shared in the profits and supplied the management: Rothstein and Stuart Rosenfeldt, who has claimed that he didn't know about his partner's scam. All of the other lawyers, who included Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams, had the title "shareholder" (Mr. Berger) or "partner" (Mr. Abrams) but received a salary only.
Lawyers have theorized to me that anyone who had such titles could be liable for the investors' money, even though Mr. Berger said that he and others were "just employees." Let's assume that the law is murky, and that the issue will take years to sort out, providing steady work for still more lawyers.
What is clear, though, is that before joining the firm few, if any of those "partners" asked themselves questions that I'd heard from curious lawyers in Palm Beach County. How could two men who specialized in labor law — not a top-tier income branch of the profession — create a firm that grew so fast? Who were the clients? Where was all that money coming from? How did Rothstein start living so flamboyantly after such a short time?
"There were no red flags," Mr. Berger said last week. "I go by personal relationships." He had known Mr. Rosenfeldt as a neighbor and friend. He was impressed by a lecture Rothstein gave. A law firm he respected was a client "When I was hired, (Rothstein) hadn't started on all the 'bling' stuff."
In fact, two months before Berger's hiring, Rothstein had treated himself to a three-day wedding at the Versace mansion on South Beach. In 2007, he had flashed $1 million worth of watches at a jewelry store. "I didn't know that," Mr. Berger said. "And what the hell would it have mattered? It tells me that he's a highly successful businessman."
But look who the politically minded Rothstein hired for the Palm Beach County office: a judge (Mr. Berger), the former mayor of Boca Raton (Mr. Abrams) and a Republican committeeman (Peter Feaman.) He hired other ex-judges. All came with résumés that bolstered the firm's credibility. Some would show up for an interview and be hired on the spot. Commissioner Abrams was making $204,000 a year, even though his elected office is a full-time position. How much did Mr. Berger make? "More than that."
Mr. Berger did acknowledge that Rothstein's bunker was "unusual" and "puzzling." But once in that office, Mr. Berger says, he found Rothstein "davening," the Hebrew term for praying. A rabbi came by the office once a week. "What was he doing?" Mr. Berger asked. "Conning God? To do that, and then do what he did at the firm, he's just an evil person. Pure evil."
Maybe he is. Still, Rothstein's employees and investors wanted to believe in the good pay and the big returns, even though a hard look probably would have given them less reason to believe. Rothstein had a lot of enablers, and some were happy to play the role.
More: "Four days after Scott Rothstein fled to Morocco last month, a major investor e-mailed the Fort Lauderdale lawyer to ask him about a $300 million deficit in Rothstein's investment fund, court records state."
"We understand that the shortage is now 300m which is still manageable if we have your cooperation," the Banyon investment group's chief operating officer, Frank J. Prevé, wrote to Rothstein on Oct. 31. "Let me know.""Lawsuit adds names as co-conspirators in Rothstein case".
Rothstein's response: "That is not the shortage … that is the amount of money needed to give the investors back their money. I really just need to end it frank. It will make it easier for everyone."
The e-mail exchange suggests that Rothstein, who returned from Morocco in early November to face a federal investigation into his massive Ponzi scheme, may have conspired with Prevé to bilk hundreds of millions of dollars out of investors, according to an amended lawsuit filed Wednesday.
"The first step on Brogan's to-do list: resolve a 2007 lawsuit in which the Board of Governors joined former Gov. Bob Graham to challenge the Legislature over its tuition-setting authority." "New state universities chancellor Brogan tries to mend ties with Legislature".
"Thousands expected to watch horse racing at Hialeah Park's grand reopening".