Our digest and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.
Meek: Charlie's lazy
"With most of the national attention going to the primary to determine his likely opponent for the U.S. Senate race, Democratic frontrunner Kendrick Meek dismissed Republican Gov. Charlie Crist as being more interested in photo opportunities than governing. Meek said he was not concerned with who emerged from the increasingly fractious primary between Crist and Marco Rubio. However, Meek said Friday that Crist did not work hard enough to be Florida's next U.S. senator." "Meek: Crist Is Vague on Stands On Big Issues".
Baby tea partiers
"In Florida, home schooling is seeing its biggest increase since 2005. And in Central Florida, its growth is even more pronounced." "Home schooling soars in Central Florida".
"Things will heat up considerably this week"
Michael Peltier: "Following a bitterly cold weekend — by Florida standards, that is — things will heat up considerably this week as lawmakers return to Tallahassee for the first of two committee weeks in January."
As lawmakers begin the 2010 push leading up to the Legislative session in March, committees this week will take separate looks at Seminole Indian gambling and the future of offshore oil drilling off Florida’s Gulf coast."Drilling, gaming debate heats up chilly Capitol".
The two controversial issues are mixed in among scores of items — some important, some not-so-much — working their way through committees to prepare for possible passage later this spring.
The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "It didn't take long for the Democratic-led Broward County Legislative Delegation to beat back a nine-year attempt to improve ethics in county government via what was supposed to be the less contentious of two proposals." "State lawmakers beat back ethics reform".
Business shill Beth Kassab: "Amendment 4. So-called "Hometown Democracy" will again test the business community's mettle. One of its biggest priorities is to defeat the November ballot question that would give voters veto power over certain growth and planning decisions for cities and counties. If this amendment passes it will speak to just how weak the business lobby has grown in the wake of financial calamity. My bet, however, is that business leaders will show just how much sway they continue to hold and beat the measure." "Beth Kassab: Local execs and issues to watch this year".
State employees ready to grab their ankles again
Bill Cotterell: "The 2010 legislative session is likely to be miserable for Florida's government work force."
Layoffs? Likely."They tried salary reductions last year, but Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the budget item that would have taken 2 percent from everyone earning more than $45,000. This year, with the state's revenue picture no better and Crist's political fortunes considerably more cloudy, it's unlikely the governor will throw himself in the path of any bureaucracy-busting item in the budget that lawmakers send to him next May."
Pay raise? No, for the fifth year in a row.
Pay cut? Possibly.
Salaries, benefits and jobs of government employees are not exactly high priorities among the Republican primary voters whom Crist needs to woo away from U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio. Cutting government costs would be high on a Republican governor's to-do list for the 2010 session anyway, but Crist's slide in the polls makes that even more important."Something's got to give in retirement system".
"Things look grimmer from the manatees' standpoint"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "Viewed from one angle, Florida has done a good job of protecting endangered manatees. The population is stable or increasing in most parts of the state, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said in December, reporting a minimum population of 3,800. But things look grimmer from the manatees' standpoint." "A species' survival".
"Everglades advocates and restoration agencies say they see progress ahead for several projects despite a decade of delays." "Everglades projects see progress during conference".
"Pay to play"
The Orlando Sentinel editors: "In October, the St. Petersburg Times reported that "
Attorney General Bill McCollum, the Republican front-runner for governor, received $28,000 for his campaign on a single day in June from contributors associated with Federated Investors. That Pittsburgh firm had been awarded a contract in 2008 to manage state pension investments. It made more than $3 million in the ensuing 19 months."Stop pay to play".
In her 2006 campaign for CFO, Democrat Alex Sink got at least $9,600 from contributors tied to Bank of America, her former employer and a firm that also has earned millions from pension contracts with Florida.
A few states — not Florida — have laws or rules to prevent investment firms from bankrolling the campaigns of the politicians overseeing pension funds.
Now the SEC has proposed a nationwide rule that would bar investment firms from seeking pension contracts for two years if they or any of their executives have given more than $250 to the campaign of a politician with responsibility over the fund. Spouses of executives and agents that solicit business for the firm also would be covered.
This rule wouldn't stop executives from exercising their constitutional right to give to a candidate of their choice. But if they wanted their firm to qualify for a government contract, they would have to limit their contributions. A similar rule has been in effect since 1994 for firms competing to market government bonds.
The current proposal is getting some pushback from financial industry lobbyists. They're arguing for fuller disclosure of contributions from firms rather than limits. This would be a weak approach to a problem that calls for strong action. The SEC should approve the proposal at its earliest opportunity.
Myriam Marquez eulogizes one Emilio Estefan in "Emilio Estefan's success born of many obstacles". Perhaps the Bongo's Cuban Café waiters and dishwashers who were subjected to Mr. Estefan's anti-union tirades when they tried to unionize several years ago might have a different perspective on Mr. Estefan.
"As the state limps into a new decade"
"In the last two-and-a-half years, more than 736,000 jobs have been lost to the worst recession in 70 years."
As the state limps into a new decade, joblessness will remain the dominant theme of Florida's economic plot line. Though the tidal wave of layoffs has receded, skittish employers are in no rush to add workers."Central Florida starts digging out from 2009's mess".
Even if they were, it would take years to make up for the jobs stolen by the Great Recession.
Media hacks must be balanced ...
Fred Grimm wants you to know that, even though "Rothstein may have been Gov. Crist's single biggest donor", he really wasn't a Republican:
Those festive photos of Scott and Charlie may be politically embarrassing. But no one contends that Rothstein latched onto Crist because he admired his governing philosophy. (Though I'm not sure anyone can quite define the pragmatic governor's core political beliefs.) No one thinks Crist recognized a fellow traveler in Rothstein. It was all about the money."Scandals center on money, not political beliefs".
Rothstein donated more to Republicans, but he covered his bets, too, with contributions to Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink. And again, it was about influence and power -- a fat cigar-chomping sociopath trying to buy himself instant status.
"Something must be in the water"
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Something must be in the water in South Florida."
That would explain the opposition by a coalition of public water utilities to year-round watering restrictions imposed by the South Florida Water Management District to conserve potable water."Legislature must uphold watering limits".
Worse, the opponents, who obviously are putting their profits above conservation, are appealing directly to the Legislature's Joint Administrative Procedures Committee, challenging the district's authority to implement the new regulations.
Lawmakers shouldn't buckle.
"'Florida's Blood Centers sticks out as the entity in the state that has been outside the norm,' said Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Destin, who chairs the health regulation committee."
Reacting in part to a series of articles in the Orlando Sentinel that detailed the inner workings of FBC, Gaetz said he intends to "shine the light of public scrutiny" on the agency's business practices."Blood banks under microscope as leaders go before Florida lawmakers".
The Sentinel stories revealed that FBC board members have sold millions of dollars in goods and services to the agency each year; that board members had no term limits; and that CEO Anne Chinoda – who was asked and is expected to testify – was compensated nearly $600,000 annually.
"Brevard County Republican Chairman Jason Steele, who led one of numerous frontal assaults on Greer's leadership, said Bush joined forces with Senate President-elect Mike Haridopolos of Merritt Island and House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon of Winter Park to convince Greer it was time for him to go." "Crist's role hinges on GOP chairmanship".
You remember Jason: "Jason Steele: Let's put Twittergate behind us".
"'That f---er is not going to keep his end of the bargain'"
"McCain had endorsed Crist in his primary fight; Giuliani had remained neutral."
Crist expressed gratitude to McCain on a regular basis, including several reaffirmations of a promise to endorse McCain’s presidential bid. "Don’t worry, I’ll be there at the right time," Crist assured him."New book details the intrigue behind Charlie Crist's John McCain endorsement".
But now that McCain was tanking, Crist seemed to be reconsidering his options. "I campaigned my a-- off for him," McCain groused to his lieutenants. "And now that f---er is not going to keep his end of the bargain.”
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board has obviously never sat down at a collective bargaining table in Florida, if they expect the teachers to "trust" the school boards to act in good faith:
Districts and unions with questions would do better to agree now and, in good faith, work out their concerns in the months ahead as each district writes its own detailed plan."Opportunity for Florida students".
"Three major moving companies reported a total of 19,530 loads coming into Florida in 2009 and 18,863 leaving. Because those totals are so close, the moving companies consider the net migration 'flat' for a state with more than 18 million residents." "Movers show state population growth stalled in 2009".
"Should U.S. normalize relations with Cuba?".
"Save money" at Walmart
"Meth lab on wheels busted in Walmart parking lot".
"The background will be pure politics"
"To make the decision, the five-member Public Service Commission will wade through a thicket of financial data and economic projections; but the background will be pure politics." "30% FPL rate hike down to single vote".
"State regulators are set to rule on Progress Energy Florida's request for a $500 million-a-year base rate increase." "Fla. regulators to decide Progress Energy rates".