"Not pretty times for Crist"
"Google the words Charlie Crist and vomit and you'll find an item that illustrates just how badly things have been going for Florida's governor and aspiring U.S. senator."
It's not a pretty image, but these are not pretty times for Crist."GOP base flees Charlie Crist for Marco Rubio".
A 2010 primary expected to be a cakewalk for the governor is now being cast as a struggle for the soul of the state's Republican Party. Like the District 23 congressional race in New York, it has erupted onto the national scene, as über-conservatives try to nudge the party to the right. ...
The fight reflects the generalized anger of the GOP base and its long-standing, if low-grade, concern that Crist is not a true believer.
Convinced that the country is spiraling into socialism, some Republican voters have little interest in compromise and, instead, are looking for a scrappy, conservative fighter. That has never worn well on Crist, who has made a career of being affable and low-key.
See also "In Senate race, Republican Bob Smith is running to right of Rubio".
"Florida's water glass is almost empty"
"Decades of rapid population growth left the state's water supplies dirty and critically drained, posing the biggest single threat to the environment and a monumental challenge for the well-being of people living the state." "What now for Florida's water supplies?".
"Sometime next year"
Aaron Deslatte: "Sometime next year, Alex Sink and Bill McCollum plan to get serious about creating jobs."
The crown jewel of Florida's push to create high-tech jobs is the Scripps Florida research institute in Jupiter. It cost the state cost $310 million in 2003 -- and has so far created 321 jobs, according to a state report out this month."Creating jobs in Florida takes more than rhetoric". A related piece from the The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "End fuzzy math on jobs".
Hopefully, Sink and McCollum have some better ideas for revving the state's economic engines – whenever they get around to sharing them.
"That's not a tax. It's a tip"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editors: "Florida's unemployment compensation system is miserly, broke -- and broken. As unemployment rolls continue to grow, a special session of the Legislature that lawmakers are considering to address commuter rail's future in Central Florida, would present a good occasion to also reform the state's unemployment compensation system."
The maximum $275 weekly benefit check to the unemployed (not including a $25 federal supplement) is the fourth-lowest amount in the country after Alabama ($255), Arizona ($240) and Missouri ($230). Adjusted for inflation, Florida's weekly checks are almost $25 less than what they were in 1981."Chintzy and shortsighted".
Despite the stinginess, the state's unemployment trust fund is broke. Florida is borrowing $300 million a month from the federal government to write checks to its 1 million unemployed (including 35,000 workers in Volusia and Flagler counties). It's not just because of Florida's 11.2 percent unemployment rate. It's because the state's unemployment tax is inadequate and badly structured to build proper reserves and meet increased needs during recessions. Employers pay a maximum tax of 5.4 percent on only the first $7,000 of an employee's wage, or a maximum of $7.27 per week. The maximum rate applies to employers with a history of firings. New employers pay half the rate. And the minimum rate, which applies to employers with steady workforces, is 0.12 percent per employee, or 70 cents per month. That's not a tax. It's a tip.
"Spare me", Gov. Crist
Jac Wilder VerSteeg would "like to see Mr. Rubio win the contest."
It's not because I think that he'd be easier for the Democrat to beat. I'm pretty sure that the Republican has a good shot, whether it's Gov. Crist or Mr. Rubio. It all depends on whether support for the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress erodes further, which could happen if the GOP gubernatorial victories in Virginia and New Jersey are a bellwether. Or voters might be loving the Democrats about next Election Day if the economy has come back strong and they pass a good health care bill."Gov. Crist's refusal to debate Mr. Rubio is what finally got me. "
It's not that I agree with Mr. Rubio more on the issues. I'm not exactly simpatico with Charlie Crist, either. But — this is the meat of the thing — when Charlie says things I agree with, he still tends not to deliver or stand fast. Yeah, he's talked green and hosted a conference, but what has he done exactly on renewable energy? He's the guy who now is OK with drilling for oil off Florida's coast.
These guys are Florida's leading Republican candidates for what its members call the greatest deliberative body in the history of the world. Yet Gov. Crist is afraid to get in there and have a serious deliberation session with Mr. Rubio.Much more here: "Unstimulating Charlie: Why Rubio should win the GOP Senate primary".
The governor was unforgivably dismissive about it, too. He didn't even mention Mr. Rubio by name. The governor's campaign put out a statement that said Gov. Crist eventually will debate "all of his primary opponents … but he still has an important job to do, as the governor of Florida."
Spare me. If Gov. Crist thinks that being governor is so important, why is he chucking a guaranteed second term in 2010 to run for the Senate, where he will have much less impact on our state?
Seems pretty clear that he's leaving because Florida's problems are beyond Gov. Crist's ability to solve, particularly come 2011, when the federal stimulus money will be running out and all the various and sundry trust funds that could cushion the blow already will have been drained.
Plus — and you can't discount this for a guy like Gov. Crist, who has been in one government job after another for decades — he'd be term-limited after 2014. The Senate, in contrast, lets people stay on long after they should have packed up and gone home.
The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Time to give class-size restrictions a breather". For something different, see yesterday's Mike Thomas column, "Leave class-size limits alone: They work"
Florida's gambling story
Mary Ellen Klas begins her lengthy piece on gambling in Florida this morning with this: "Gambling has not always been legal in Florida but it has always existed here."
A century before the state established the lottery, legalized slot machines, and opened the doors to casinos on Seminole reservations, Henry Flagler was enticing high rollers to the state."Florida's gambling fever: Contrasting attitudes fuel expansion debate".
Within months of opening his first hotel, the Ponce de Leon in St. Augustine in 1888, the pioneering plutocrat erected the exclusive and illegal Bacchus Club casino, a gambler's paradise of roulette wheels, craps tables and bookie boards nestled near the beach.
With every hotel, Flagler built both a house of chance and, nearby, a house of prayer. On the state's west coast, Henry Plant was building his own hotels serviced by railroads as well, which also steered wealthy patrons to local gambling houses.
Today, as legislators ponder whether to pursue the biggest expansion of gambling in Florida history by signing off on a agreement with the Seminole Tribe, Flagler's contrasting sides of mammon and morality mirror the debate. For decades, Florida's politics and people have alternately railed against the evils of gambling and then eagerly craved the revenues it can produce.
Pants on fire
"A Herald-Tribune examination found that the promises made by drilling proponents are largely empty" "Faulty promises in bid to drill off Florida?".
Jane Healy: "There's nothing more important in Florida's economy right now than reducing unemployment. Nothing. Yet the urgency to attack this problem is missing." "Where is Crist's 5-point jobs plan?".
"In his heyday, however, Rothstein, 47, amassed multimillion-dollar homes, cars and yachts. Disbursing millions in contributions, he attracted to his home such political luminaries as presidential candidate John McCain, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger." "Attorney Rothstein craved attention, psychologists say".
Race to the right
William March: "In the Republican primary for Florida agriculture commissioner, U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam of Bartow seems like a natural."
One of the party's fastest rising stars, he reached a leadership position in Congress three years ago at age 31. He comes from a prominent Polk County citrus and cattle ranching family, and he was even state 4-H president in high school."Conservative beliefs clash in race".
Political junkies considered him a shoo-in when he announced in February.
But state Sen. Carey Baker of Eustis intends to put up a fight against Putnam in the primary. Claiming the role of the true conservative, he hopes to turn the race into the kind of ideological battle that's becoming common in the Republican Party.
"This will shape up as a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party," Baker told The Tampa Tribune last week.
"I'm the true conservative in this race. Congressman Putnam had an opportunity to stand up for those values, and he failed to do so."
Baker acknowledged his strategy and language in the race echo the conservative challenge by Marco Rubio against Gov. Charlie Crist for the U.S. Senate.
"He must undo more of what he did"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "In 1999, as lieutenant governor, Frank Brogan backed a move to break Florida's education system into separate fiefdoms for public schools, community colleges and universities. Mr. Brogan called this response to a 1998 voter-approved constitutional amendment 'streamlining.' Fortunately, that particular streamlining never took place."
Then in 2000, Mr. Brogan supported the move by then-Gov. Jeb Bush and the Legislature to abolish the Board of Regents that ran the university system. The Legislature's desire to control higher education led to another voter-approved amendment in 2002 that created the Board of Governors, which technically oversees public universities as a replacement for the Board of Regents. The true power lies with each university's board of trustees, which that 2000 law created, and the Legislature, which sets rules for tuition."State needs less conflict, more degrees from university system".
As the new university system chancellor, Mr. Brogan now wants the Board of Education, which oversees public schools and community and state colleges, and the Board of Governors to create a "seamless" education system. ...
And if Mr. Brogan were chancellor of the former Board of Regents instead of the Board of Governors, he might have even more power to exact the kind of change he wants to see. To do what he wants, he must undo more of what he did.
"Get the details right"
The Saint Petersburg Times editors: "Crist is right to want to move quickly. Federal officials will award the high-speed money within months, and they need a strong sign that Florida will invest in rail. But the terms of the deal shaping this would-be special session are half-baked. It would not limit the financial risks to state taxpayers. It would not provide the two commuter lines the stable revenue stream they need. Nor would it provide a strong signal that Florida is responsible and deserves the federal rail money. SunRail, Tri-Rail and high-speed rail are all important to commuters and the Florida economy. But it is important to get the details right."
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "A special legislative session, looming this week, to affirm support of urban rail systems would go a long ways toward keeping a $2.5 billion in federal grant money from evaporating, and that is not an insignificant reason to meet." "Commuter rails".
"Florida's elder affairs chief has racked up nearly $70,000 in travel bills in less than three years, much of it by driving his car between the capital and Orlando, where Douglas Beach owns a home and where his wife lives." "Florida's elder affairs chief racks up $70K in travel bills".