Rubio "double-billed state taxpayers"
"Rubio admitted Friday that he double-billed state taxpayers and the Republican Party of Florida for eight plane tickets when he was speaker of the Florida House."
Calling the billing a mistake, Rubio said in a written statement that he will repay the party about $3,000 to cover the flights because the trips in 2007 were for state business, not politics."Marco Rubio says double-billing of nearly $3,000 for flights was 'mistake'". See also "Marco Rubio: Double-billing of flights was in error".
On Wednesday, in response to questions from the St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald about his party credit card, Rubio said the GOP paid for all travel when he served as speaker in 2007 and 2008. But records released to the Times/Herald on Thursday afternoon show that eight flights from South Florida to Tallahassee were also billed to the state.
"Billing the party was a mistake which needs to be fixed," Rubio said in the statement. "So, out of an abundance of caution, I am personally reimbursing the party for the cost of all eight flights."
Jeremy Wallace: "Crist wasted no time in trying to capitalize on newly discovered credit card statements that show his chief rival Marco Rubio put thousands of dollars of personal expenses on a Republican Party-issued credit card."
"I'm the most frugal cheap guy you'll ever meet," Crist told about 350 people at the Charlotte County Republican Party's Lincoln Day dinner on Friday night. "I'm not in this for money. I'm not in this to enrich myself or get a nice haircut somewhere.""Herald Tribune: Crist assails Rubio's spending".
More: "Dems spoof state GOP credit card scandal with 'priceless' video" and "Rubio credit card bills show 'financial desperation', Crist says".
Heaven help us
"Rubio claims 57 of his 100 ideas were made law".
Meek seeks traction
The New York Times: "Representative Kendrick B. Meek, the leading Democratic candidate for Florida’s open Senate seat, listened quietly last week to tales of woe: a college student who nearly ended up homeless because her mother had lost her job; a laid-off mother who paid for health care with credit cards; an electrician struggling to get unemployment benefits."
In a state dominated by expensive news media markets, Mr. Rubio is still behind in fund-raising, with $3.37 million collected, according to state records, compared with $4.96 million for Mr. Meek and $8.99 million for Mr. Crist."As G.O.P. Fights in Florida, Kendrick Meek Looks for Traction".
The challenge for Mr. Meek is that he is generally unknown outside Miami. According to the January poll by Quinnipiac), 72 percent of all those surveyed, and 60 percent of Democrats, said they did not know enough about him to form an opinion.
Many of his supporters say this can be solved by Election Day. They praise Mr. Meek as a methodical campaigner who is building his organization and visiting small gatherings all over the state.
The contrast between the parties’ candidates looked particularly stark last week.
"Estimated reserves in Florida waters would provide the United States with less than a week’s worth of oil and have no discernible effect on prices at the pump or U.S. reliance on foreign oil, says a report released Friday as part of a state Senate review of whether a ban on offshore drilling should be lifted." "News-Press: Report says oil supplies in Florida waters negligible".
"A prescription for trouble"
Steve Bousquet: "It's a prescription for trouble."
In an election-year legislative session, the lame-duck governor is running for U.S. Senate. The Senate president is campaigning for a Cabinet post. The leader of the House is called the "accidental speaker" because he fell into power after Ray Sansom's ouster, but has no higher political goal. And dozens of other legislators are running for higher office — in some cases against each other."Who's in charge in Tallahassee?".
The question is, with so many politicians in the Capitol distracted by their own ambitions, who's in charge?
The answer should be Gov. Charlie Crist, Senate President Jeff Atwater and House Speaker Larry Cretul. All three Republicans get along publicly, and agree the session's highest priority is creating jobs while they try to plug a $3 billion budget shortfall.
But it's not that simple.
Peace River + phosphate
The Saint Petersburg Times editors: "A dramatic new phase of phosphate mining along the Peace River in Southwest Florida is in the works, raising concerns about whether government will effectively protect the source of drinking water for 700,000 Floridians." "Protect the Peace River".
"Welcome to the NFL", Marco
Charlie gets all high and mighty:
"What matters to me is that the people have the right to know how people spend their money, how they comport themselves, how they conduct themselves, before they put themselves up for public office,'' said Crist, who did not have a party card. "It's happened to the speaker. He apparently doesn't like it. That's too bad. Welcome to the NFL.''"Marco Rubio case renews spending outcry". Related: "Crist denied disclosing Marco Rubio's credit card records Thursday but happily said the former Florida House Speaker can expect more hard hits in their U.S. Senate race." "Gov. Crist denies leaking Rubio's credit card record". See also "Crist's new line of attack against Rubio: 'trust'".
The IRS limits tax-exempt organizations like political parties to spending money only on influencing elections. Rubio did not make monthly payments to American Express and made no contributions to the bill during one six-month stretch in 2007, records show.
Miami attorney Ben Kuehne, an election law expert who has represented the Florida Democratic Party, said some of Rubio's expenses "sound incredibly personal, not political.''
"This is party money. Not the elected officials' money,'' he said. "The person using the card shouldn't be the one who determines whether it is business or personal. From a legal point of view there are red flags all over the place.''
Democrats in Washington and Tallahassee pounced on Rubio's credit-card use. The Florida Democratic Party called on Crist to name a special prosecutor and for McCollum to use his authority as attorney general to investigate.
"Never once in my public life did it occur to me that simply because my car was parked at a party event that if something happened to it my reflexive reaction would be to turn it over to the party to pay for it,'' said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston. "I know most Floridians wish they could get a deal like that.''
The Tampa Tribune editorial board writes "instead of recommending a total ban on the retail use of the bags, as originally it contemplated, DEP has suggested lawmakers take steps to 'discourage' people from using them in favor of relying on the 'reusable' bags growing in popularity today." "DEP right to bag proposal".
"Is Crist bereft of new ideas?"
"In 1994, when a young Charlie Crist was seeking re-election as a state senator from the Tampa Bay area, he ran on the "four E's" — the economy, education, ethics and the environment."
Here we are 16 years later, and Gov. Crist is highlighting the same four points entering Tuesday's opening of the 2010 legislative session."Crist finds an urgency in his final months".
Is Florida really that static a place? Or is Crist bereft of new ideas?
Same old, same old
Steve Bousquet: "For the third straight year, the Legislature confronts some painful choices as it writes the state budget, and those decisions are likely to be felt by every man, woman and child in Florida."
The state's debt level of $24 billion is precariously high. A growing Medicaid caseload now swallows more than 25 percent of the entire budget. And billions of federal stimulus dollars will soon flame out, leaving a gaping hole of unfunded programs on the horizon."What not to do, again". See also "Fla. budget writers expect to do more cutting".
Even unadjusted for inflation, today's budget is about $7 billion less than it was a few years ago. After wave after wave of cuts, and an infusion of $5.5 billion in stimulus money this year alone, lawmakers say they must cut more.
Back at the ranch, our courageous legislators are ready to "ban on texting and driving could be passed in 2010". More: "Legislators to tackle class size, gambling, property insurance as session kicks off Tuesday".
"Even before the earthquake, the poorest of Miami's Haitians were struggled to send money to relatives in their poverty-stricken nation." "In Miami, Haitian workers struggle to send money home".
The union haters on the The Sun-Sentinel editorial board have the temerity to accuse the teachers' union of "lowering the level of dialogue into the gutter".
"Florida's class-size battle heats up".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "In an interview Friday with The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board, Gov. Crist not only was eager to defend Florida's acceptance of $15 billion in stimulus money from the Obama administration, he wouldn't throw President Obama under a bus festooned with Tea Party bumper stickers."
Asked whether he agreed with the labels some Tea Partiers have plastered on Mr. Obama — communist, fascist, tyrant — Gov. Crist said, "I don't think any labels are justified." Asked about criticism that, as governor, he hasn't done enough to bring down unemployment, Mr. Crist said he's doing everything he can, including taking the stimulus money, which he said had saved 87,000 jobs in Florida. Gov. Crist extended the same courtesy to Mr. Obama, declining to blame the president for high unemployment rate. He said Mr. Obama is doing the best he can."Crist: A Tea Party-pooper".
Gov. Crist is running for the Senate. His main Republican opponent, former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, has been rising in the polls on the strength of Tea Party and conservative Republican support, based largely on Mr. Rubio's opposition to the stimulus. Gov. Crist's answers in the interview did not reveal a candidate who has decided at this point that to win the primary he must run far to the right.
"Suspended West Miami Mayor Cesar Carasa officially filed paperwork this week for the April 13 mayoral election, despite facing charges he exploited his official position related to alleged abuse of his city-issued cellphone." "Suspended West Miami mayor files for former seat".
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "Good news: Attorney General Bill McCollum notes that Florida is making progress against gangs. Better news: Community commitment to curbing the growth of gangs in our area hasn't ebbed with the passage of time." "Our Opinion: Part of the solution".