"Big hair and an eager-to-please partisan edge"
Wingnut State Senator Mike "Haridopolos is slated to be officially designated as the 2010-12 Senate president this Tuesday in Tallahassee, but he is already the face of what he calls the 'New Senate' — a chamber shifting toward the right thanks in part to term limits."
"This is what it's all about. A year ago everyone thought the conservative movement was dead, and now it's reborn.""Democrats view his presidency as a product of legislative redistricting that has rendered most state Senate seats uncompetitive for one party or the other. That has made it easier for more-ideological candidates to get elected from both parties."
Haridopolos hasn't stopped promoting himself since he was elected to the House in 2000 at age 30.
Though he's never had a serious Democratic opponent, he runs a virtually continuous campaign, with TV advertisements and e-mail blast lists for of everyone from schoolteachers to GOP club members — a tactic he says he learned from Bill Clinton.
Initially, veteran lawmakers derided him for his big hair and eager-to-please partisan edge – and cast him as an opportunist when he walked into an open state Senate seat with the death of Brevard Sen. Howard Futch in 2003.
"The bottom line is, if you've had a challenge and you've had to listen to both sides and are competing for the independents, you have to be a little more moderating about it," says Sen. Nan Rich, a Weston Democrat slated to serve as minority leader beginning in 2010."Haridopolos planning for a conservative 'New Senate'".
"Certainly, Haridopolos hasn't had to [moderate]." ...
Before lawmakers redistrict again in time for the 2012 elections — an effort he will preside over — Haridopolos expects a new crop of more-ideological Republicans to win office in 2010 and help him reshape the Senate.
Most cut their teeth in the more-partisan Florida House — like former state Rep. David Simmons of Longwood, who is vying to replace Sen. Lee Constantine, R- Altamonte Springs.
All told, three to four Senate districts in South Florida, two in Tampa and Constantine's in Central Florida are likely to elect Republicans who are more conservative than their term-limited incumbents. Haridopolos is committed to raising $12 million to make that happen.
That could trigger a seismic shift in the Legislature, where the more-moderate Senate has resisted the House over issues from school vouchers to the state's class-size amendment, the attempts in 2005 to keep brain-damaged Terri Schiavo alive and limits on personal-injury lawsuits.
Entrepreneurs in action
"As feds closed in, Allen Stanford scrambled to keep fraud secret, money flowing".
Thomas channels "Jeb!"
Mike Thomas: "Tougher FCAT is coming, and it's just what we need".
Bar killin' time
One Mickey "Larkins, vice president of the Florida Bear Hunters Association, plans ... to convince the FWC to open a short black bear hunting season."
"Instead of political correctness, let's have political fairness," he said. "The situation needs to be fair to the landowners, the animal rights group, and the animals themselves. We need to remember that everyone can't be satisfied. If we allow the bears to continue to populate with no control, they will continue to be hit accidentally on the roads, too."Here's another genius:
Another hunting season supporter, outdoor writer Scott Ellis, suggested the state could hold a lottery for 10 bears to be killed each year. At $500 a bear, the state could make money."Black bear hunting proposed for Panhandle".
The rich are different
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Crist, who is paid about $133,000 a year, plans to add his wealthy wife and her two daughters from a prior marriage to his state health-insurance policy on Jan. 1, a spokesman for the governor confirmed. The daughters attend private school in New York and live with their father, but are eligible under the governor's policy as dependents of his wife". "Health-care hypocrites".
The Palm Beach Post editors: "Florida Power & Light Co. President Armando Olivera wants his company to be part of improving the Public Service Commission's image. " "FPL hits rewind button on request for rate increase".
"The daughter of Palm Beach County Commissioner Jess Santamaria has received more than $56,000 in taxpayer money to teach sheriff's deputies how to testify in court."
Sheriff Ric Bradshaw signed a contract with Michelle Santamaria last year, after she proposed the classes for deputies and sergeants. The office had never offered training in court testimony, Bradshaw said."Daughter of PBC Commissioner received $56,000 in taxpayer money to teach deputies how to testify".
Bradshaw and both Santamarias said Jess Santamaria's position as a commissioner had nothing to do with his daughter's contract.
"Involvement? Absolutely not," Jess Santamaria said. "My daughter is very independent. She has credentials that could qualify her for everything and anything."
Michelle Santamaria, a former prosecutor with the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office, said she came up with the idea to start a company, called Testifying Made Simple, while working as a prosecutor. She left the job after securing the contract with the sheriff's office.
The Miami Herald editorial board: "As projects go, the Tamiami Bridge, while not cheap at $81 million, is modest compared to, say, the $515 million stadium for the Marlins or even its adjacent parking garage, now priced at $135 million. Then there's the Miami Seaport tunnel, which rings up at around $1 billion for construction."
But the bridge's significance is huge in proportion to its cost or even size at only one mile long. Even though it's not the 11-mile skyway once envisioned, it will nevertheless raise Tamiami Trail's roadbed in one section to allow water once again to begin flowing south to Taylor Slough and into Florida Bay in Everglades National Park. After its completion in 2013, the slough will again be replenished in a way it hasn't known for 85 years, when the Trail was built."One big leap for Everglades restoration".
The bridge is a key component to completing the complex Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), which the state of Florida and the federal government agreed to fund jointly in 2000.
In fact, the bridge -- or some other remedy to restore the sheet flow -- was first authorized by Congress in 1989. After years of lawsuits, cross-agency squabbling, design revisions, cost cutbacks and other delays, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and other notables joined in the bridge groundbreaking Friday.
Jane Healy: "If you thought that development pressure was on the wane because Florida is terribly overbuilt, with one of the nation's highest foreclosure rates, think again." "Foes target growth laws months before session".
Howard Troxler: "Here is the question of the hour, the week, the month and maybe the year in Tallahassee:"
Why are our governor and the bosses of our Legislature suddenly all hot and insistent that what Florida needs most is ... commuter rail?"The rail deal in Tallahassee is mostly about benefiting CSX".
Why are we suddenly willing to spend something like $1.2 billion of your money, my money, state money, local money, federal money?
Why are they suddenly crying that we absolutely must say yes, so we can chase billions more in President Barack Obama's "stimulus" money that they previously despised?
Why are they promising the magical creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs (if that promise has not been exaggerated into millions by now) through massive spending?
Why have they called the Florida Legislature into an extraordinary session on short notice, demanding that this deal be passed right now?
Mass transit. A billion-plus dollars. Stimulus money. Job creation though big spending. Who are they — the Democrats in Congress?
Here is the why.
It is about benefiting a big, powerful company, namely the CSX Corp., with one of the sweetest sweetheart deals ever proposed in Florida.
The rest is window dressing.
Flat out "hypocrisy"
"From the campaign trail, Republican Gov. Charlie Crist condemns federal spending."
In radio ads for his U.S. Senate race, he tells President Obama, "Enough is enough.""Cash pursuit for rail line thorny issue for Florida GOP".
But in Tallahassee, Crist is the leading supporter of the special session bill aimed at securing $2.5 billion in stimulus money for the state to build a bullet train. That money would be in addition to the $5.2 billion in stimulus funds propping up the state budget Crist approved in May. ...
For Florida Republicans, who have controlled the state House, Senate and governor’s office since 1999, the federal stimulus plan has proven to be a thorny issue in a high-stakes political year that includes open races for U.S. Senate, governor and all three Cabinet jobs. Doubly so when it’s for the creation of public transportation, a campaign promise of Democratic President Obama’s and not a typical Republican issue.
Andres Oppenheimer: "Latin America's honeymoon with Obama may be over".
"This trust fund has been raided"
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "It's almost irrefutable that the most meaningful thing Florida policymakers can do to help fire up the economy is get the housing market moving again. Residential housing is overbuilt in many areas, and folks are on the brink of foreclosure in others or already out of their homes."
That's why this year, the work of the Sadowski Housing Coalition deserves renewed appreciation by and support from the Legislature."Investing in housing trust fund will boost economy".
This once nationally recognized program, a trust fund founded in 1991, has operated smoothly in all 67 Florida counties for years, helping with down payments or closing costs that will get a family into a first home. It also helps with rehabilitation of owner-occupied housing, which is meant to keep low-income elders safe in homes that probably are long paid for but that they cannot afford to keep up.
In recent years, however, this trust fund has been raided by lawmakers who put the money to other uses — even though the funding is "dedicated" to housing and comes directly from a natural, related source: doc stamps on all real estate transactions.
Courtesy of the "values" crowd
"At a trial beginning Monday, a federal judge will decide whether Florida's insurance program for needy children passes federal muster." "Federal trial will decide changes in Florida's child Medicaid program".
Ever the partisan hack
One would think former Jax Mayor John Delaney would pull the manhole cover over his partisanhead and settle back into the sewage after his "appointment" as President of University of North Florida. Instead of at least pretending to be an "academic", Delaney continues with his partisan games.
"Five months after former State Attorney Harry Shorstein of Jacksonville and two other prosecutors were named as finalists for U.S. attorney, there has been no nomination by the White House."
Shorstein, a Democrat, said the White House was aware of Republican opposition from Jacksonville to his potential nomination and that much of that opposition has been funneled through the office of Sen. George LeMieux, R-Fla. A former chief of staff to Gov. Charlie Crist, LeMieux was appointed to the Senate by Crist after Martinez stepped down. ..."Political intrigue slows US attorney pick".
University of North Florida President and former Mayor John Delaney, who wrote a lengthy letter to the nominating commission opposing Shorstein, said he talked with LeMieux after he took office in September. Delaney, a longtime political opponent of Shorstein, said the senator had concerns about some of the same issues Delaney raised in his letter: mainly the controversial Shorstein-led grand jury investigation of former State Attorney John Tanner in Flagler County. Tanner, a Republican, lost re-election last year. ...
Delaney also said LeMieux told him he wasn't blocking Shorstein's potential nomination, despite speculation that has circulated across the state to that effect. Last month, LeMieux procedurally halted the appointment of President Obama's ambassador to Brazil, at least temporarily, using a Senate rule that allows one senator to block nominations and legislation.
LeMieux spokesman Ken Lundberg denied that the senator is holding up the U.S. attorney nomination. Lundberg confirmed that LeMieux met with the White House counsel to gather information about the potential nominees because he wasn't part of the interview process. That was the extent of his involvement, Lundberg said.
Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin said he doesn't know the reason for the holdup.
Never mind the "verification" part
"Florida's efforts to track how much money is flowing into the state capital to influence state laws and other public business is missing a major step: verification." "State fails to verify lobbyists' pay".
"Attorneys sorting through the books of disbarred Florida lawyer Scott Rothstein have uncovered handsome salaries for the disgraced attorney and his partners." "Disgraced attorney collected $35 million in 2008". More: "After law school, Rothstein was 'always looking for more,' ex-friend says".
"Virtual blackjack hits Broward pari-mutuels".