"After losing on the legal front, a powerful coalition of agriculture and business interests, wastewater utilities, water managers and tax watchdogs is mounting a lobbying assault on pending federal rules that could force Florida to clean up pollution fouling lakes, canals, streams and beaches statewide."
The target: A settlement a federal judge in Tallahassee approved last week in a lawsuit brought by five environmental groups against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency."David Guest, an attorney for Earthjustice, a public interest law firm that sued the EPA for the environmental groups, called the opponents' projected numbers for cleanup wildly inflated 'smoke and mirrors.'"
It requires that federal regulators, for the first time, step in and set a state's water quality standards for nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus that flow into waterways from fertilized lawns, sewage plants, farms fields, cattle pastures and a host of other sources.
Opponents -- Associated Industries of Florida, Florida Farm Bureau, Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Stormwater Association, Florida Tax Watch, Sugarcane Growers Cooperative of Florida and some 60 other organizations that collectively wield considerable political clout -- argue the economic impacts could be staggering and far outweigh the environmental benefits.
They've called on state congressional leaders to block the EPA action, enlisted two former state environmental secretaries, Virginia Wetherell and Colleen Castille, and created a website branding the EPA rules a federal "water tax.'' Their projections for the cost to local and state governments for the cleanup: As much as $50 billion -- and that's just for overhauling the state's sewage systems, a price tag that could double customer's bills.
Wetherell and Castille -- who led the DEP when state lawmakers overhauled Everglades pollution regulations, essentially pushing deadlines back a decade -- defended state oversight, calling Florida a national leader in water quality. Both became lobbyists after leaving the state but said they weren't representing clients in joining the fight against numeric standards they and other critics call "scientifically unsound.'' ..."Florida coalition targets pending federal pollution rules".
Environmentalists counter that foes are ignoring the long-term impact of stagnant lakes and estuaries and rotting fish on beaches to an economy that more than ever needs to draw visitors and home buyers.
They contend opponents are primarily looking to preserve revenue streams and profit margins protected by the vague "narrative'' state standards that allow the continued release of high volumes of nutrients. The St. Johns, for instance, remains periodically under health advisories despite the state cleanup plan, they said.
"Asking for clean water is not a stretch,'' said St. Johns Riverkeeper Neil Armingeon. "There are algae blooms even today in the St. Johns River. Moving forward quickly is an imperative.''
Entrepreneurs in action
The wingnuts on the The Tampa Tribune editorial board point out that the bottom feeders in Florida's "private industries and businesses have phased out pensions because of the risks." So, it only make sense that Florida "taxpayers, through their elected Legislature, should" eliminate public sector pensions.
The audacity of teachers, firefighters and cops - and most unionized private sector employees - expecting a retirement plan that actually, get this
rewards employees for years of service when they retire"Derail Florida's pension gravy train".
Private university push
"In an economy where money is tight and everyone's looking for a bargain, Florida's most expensive universities are attracting more students than expected. The state's private universities, while battling decreased endowments and budget cuts, have been aggressively recruiting students this past year, even those who might think a $22,000-a-year price tag is out of reach." "Fla.'s private colleges beef up recruiting".
Developers rushing in advance of Hometown Democracy
There have been "stealthy moves to prepare for another Florida building boom. Even as the construction industry remains stalled by the recession, developers are lining up at unprecedented rates to secure approval for big projects that could add hundreds of thousands of new buildings to the Florida market." "Growth Rush of 2009".
Jane Healy: "Anyone who thinks that Florida is getting better when it comes to addressing growth problems might want to think again. On two fronts, things are now looking worse." "Getting bamboozled on growth concerns".
Who elected this LeMieux guy anyway?
"With Nelson on board and LeMieux against, U.S. Senate votes to advance health care bill".
"The $1-per-pack tax"
The Tallahassee Democrat editors write that "the $1-per-pack tax has worked the way its most optimistic supporters predicted. Sales of cigarettes have decreased — and by a substantial 27 percent — suggesting smokers are continuing to back off from the habit. But the revenues from the tax that has been in effect since July 1 are exceeding even the estimated the amount of revenue lost by the fewer sales." "Tobacco tax".
Jebbie - the man who made Boss Tweed and Mark Hanna look like "pikers", and turned influence peddling into an art form - now says "Keep politics out of power decisions".
"Public officials in denial"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "As corruption scandals mount involving city commissioners, county officials and school board members in Broward and Miami-Dade, loopholes in state and local ethics laws have finally come into focus for public officials in denial." "Enough stalling: Toughen ethics rules".
"Scope of scandal emerges".
"Get ready for more"
"On April 21, a tremor hit Florida’s political landscape."
On that day, with less than two weeks left in a tense, budget-constrained legislative session, Rep. Dean Cannon took the wraps off a then-startling proposal: An amendment offered by the Winter Park Republican would grant the state’s Cabinet power to lease sovereign Florida waters — roughly between 3 and 10 miles off the coast — for oil and natural-gas exploration. ..."Oil & Water: The debate over drilling in Florida".
Cannon’s proposal passed the House 70-43 a week after it was introduced last spring. Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, then refused to take it up in the waning days of the session.
But get ready for more.
In 2010, the dynamic is set to repeat itself, with a willing House pressing a reluctant Senate to act.
And in 2011, with the two men who will preside over the House and Senate ardent proponents of drilling exploration, the issue is almost sure to be a key issue.
Lloyd Dunkelberger: "As state officials anticipated new unemployment numbers that were the worst in more than three decades, Crist skipped the Thursday board meeting of Enterprise Florida, the state's major economic development group, where the governor serves as board chairman. Instead of using that opportunity to deliver an economic message, Crist was focused on politics, attending the Republican Governors Association in Texas and then heading to Washington, D.C., for a campaign fundraiser." "Crist faces 2010 challenges".
"As U.S. senators prepared for a critical vote on the healthcare bill Saturday morning, dozens of dissenting physicians and nurses protested at the Freedom Tower in one of 24 rallies staged nationwide." "Doctors' group blasts Senate healthcare bill in front of Freedom Tower".
"Since Oct. 23, regulators have closed four banks in Naples and Fort Myers, leaving many to wonder which local bank might be next." "Banks on the brink: Several in Collier, Lee have closed. Which ones are next?".
Unemployment eases in Southwest Florida
"Unemployment eased in Southwest Florida in October, though it remains at a collective 12.3 percent in Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties -- a level not seen since the mid-1970s." "Jobs picture slightly better in Southwest Florida".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Crist added his voice last week to the growing chorus calling for a ban on the tremendously risky and often lethal practice of texting while driving." "A capitol message".
Carl Hiaasen: "Angel Gonzalez quit the Miami City Commission and pleaded guilty to a corruption charge, all because he did something extra nice for his daughter."
He got her a job, but she never bothered to show up."No-show jobs hard to find, good to get".
For those unfamiliar with the concept, a no-show job is one that pays you for staying away and doing absolutely nothing. In Miami it's known as a botella.
At Gonzalez's urging, a politically connected company called Delant Construction generously put his daughter Elizabeth on the payroll for $500 a week.
The commissioner repaid the gesture by pressing officials to give Delant more city building projects, and by robotically voting yes for any Delant contract that came before the commission.
"Fates of SunRail, South Florida's Tri-Rail run on parallel tracks".
Jeb apologists gettin' defensive
Mike Thomas thinks the "lawsuit that accuses Florida of running shoddy schools is a half-baked, politically motivated crock."
Thomas - a charter member of the Willard Fair "In my judgment, there is no greater person on this Earth than you. I love you" Jeb Club - believes the lawsuit
veers sharply off course, becoming a broad ideological attack on school reforms. It looks like an attempt to get a court-ordered removal of education policies long opposed by many liberals." Lawsuit against Florida schools gets political, misses target".
Thomas' old ink partner, Myriam Marquez, was also an early member of the "'I love you' Jeb Club", penning these immortal words: Jebbie's "vision is universal and timeless...clear and electrifying as the day's cobalt-blue sky". It must be a Tribune thing.
Same old, same old ...
Speaking of Marquez, she continues to live in the past when it comes to Cuba: "Cultural exchange a one-way policy".
"Army of zombies"
Mark Lane: "It seems long, long ago that people were worrying about Daytona Beach developing its peninsula into kind of a tunnel -- a wall of motels and condos along the ocean; a condo fence along the river. If the Great Florida Land Bubble had churned too much longer and all those imagined megaprojects had actually been built, the army of zombies left behind could have left the whole area economy undead." "Be afraid! Zombie motels are threatening the beachside".