Sansom hightails it
"Ray Sansom resigned from the Florida House of Representatives Sunday night, a dramatic decision on the eve before his colleagues were to begin an ethics trial over his dealings with a Panhandle college." "Sansom resigns seat on eve of Florida House inquiry".
"On the eve of a trial-like committee hearing that would have been politically painful for the Republican Party and some of its top candidates, former House Speaker Ray Sansom resigned Sunday night from the Florida Legislature." "Sansom resigns from House".
As a result, "the work of a select House committee investigating an ethics complaint against former Speaker Ray Sansom has been cut short ... The resignation makes the complaint moot". "Fla. House panel's work cut short by resignation". More: "Sansom resigns House seat on eve of ethics trial".
See also: "Ray Sansom's resignation letter (PDF)", "Sansom resigns from House on eve of hearing" and "Florida House Speaker Ray Sansom resigns".
"Fallout from Florida's history of botched elections"
Aaron Deslatte: "Even a decade after the 2000 presidential recount, the fallout from Florida's history of botched elections is still playing out in Tallahassee."
Legislators are pushing to delay a requirement that county election supervisors buy $45 million in optical-scan voting equipment for the disabled from 2012 until 2016."Still no paper trail for state's disabled voters".
As part of complying with the 2002 federal Help America Vote Act, Florida replaced punch-card ballots with paperless electronic voting machines. But those machines – actually, the ballot design – were blamed for thousands of non-votes in a 2006 Sarasota congressional race. So Gov. Charlie Crist and others demanded a statewide switch in 2007 to optical-scan equipment that uses verifiable paper ballots.
But disabled voters continue to use touch-screen machines that leave no paper trail. Now, a new Senate bill (SB 900) would delay buying modifications to those machines that would create paper printouts of votes.
"Staggering unemployment during an election year means the pressure on state leaders to spur job growth couldn't be greater." "State leaders say 'heat is on' to create jobs".
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "The number of long-term acute care hospitals has exploded in the last 15 years because they are able to exploit a Medicare loophole. These facilities, which in 1993 billed the government $400 million, are expected this year to bill $4.8 billion. Yet there are serious questions about the quality of care given patients. A New York Times investigation suggests these hospitals deserve far greater scrutiny by regulators and a change in the rules regarding the way they are paid. There are 23 long-term care hospitals in Florida". "Long-term care hospitals deserve close scrutiny".
"The standard of decency"
"A legislator who has travelled the world as a Baptist minister wants Florida to ban abortion — inviting a U.S. Supreme Court rematch over law, morality and medicine."
Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights, cites the state and federal Constitutions, as well as the Declaration of Independence, in asserting that all people are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that the first among these rights is the right to life." Nearly one-third of his Florida for Life Act is devoted to legislative "findings," including statements that life begins at conception and that the high court's 1973 and 1992 rulings legalizing abortion were wrong."Rep. Charles Van Zant seeks ban on abortion".
The bill also states that about 50 million abortions have occurred since the Roe v. Wade ruling 37 years ago. It contends that "the standard of decency of the people of this state has evolved" since then and that the people want the ruling reversed.
Same old, same old
"Young says he will seek re-election".
"Jobs, jobs, jobs"
"Florida legislators will enter the 2010 session repeating the same thing as politicians all across the country: 'Jobs, jobs, jobs.' But hobbled by a severe budget crunch, the question is just how much Gov. Charlie Crist and the Legislature can do to help curb the state's chronic unemployment, where more than 1 million people are now out of work." "Florida lawmakers want to encourage hiring".
"Need for the Legislature to do more"
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Florida learned the hard way in the 2000 presidential election between George Bush and Al Gore that a uniform statewide election system is needed to ensure the accuracy of balloting, results and recounts."
With different procedures in place throughout the state, Florida became a laughingstock, with images of squinting canvassing board members trying to figure out who was selected on the paper ballots."Ensure uniform voting".
In the years since, the Legislature has taken steps to prevent a repeat, including banning the punch-card voting machines that caused many of the problems. But a recent state Supreme Court ruling in another election dispute points out the need for the Legislature to do more.
"The pain management industry"
"Despite new rules targeting the pain management industry, unscrupulous clinics that supply narcotics traffickers and addicts will keep spreading across Florida unless lawmakers enact tougher restrictions immediately, according to a top state medical official." "Health official: State lawmakers must 'take some action' to curb growth of pain clinics".
"The latest fad"
Bill Cotterell: "The latest fad in personnel budgeting is elimination of vacant positions, most likely those that have been unfilled for at least six months."
It was reported last week that the current budget contains about $150 million for about 5,500 vacant job slots — and that the money "can" be sidetracked to cover pay raises and other agency expenses not budgeted by the Legislature."Let's examine 'vacancies'".
Well, yes, agencies can use the money for that. They also can take it out on the Capitol steps and set fire to it. But they're not.
Nearly 2,000 of those vacancies were in the Department of Corrections, mostly for correctional officers. The prison system starts officers at $28,093 a year. The Bradford County Sheriff's Office, not far from Florida State Prison, starts deputies at about $28,500.
In Brevard County, a raw recruit starts at about $36,000 a year as a jailer or deputy. In Hillsborough County, deputies start at $44,300 in the jail and $44,900 on patrol.
This illustrates the fallacy of assuming that a long vacancy in a position is evidence the job isn't needed. Maybe many of them aren't. Maybe an agency has priorities that change unforseeably, maybe a federal program doesn't come down as expected or some anticipated growth at the local level fails to materialize, so some salary and benefits money gets left in the pot.
But very often, the reason jobs are vacant for six months or more is not that there are too many positions, but that you can't fill them at that salary — at least not with an experienced, qualified person — even in this economy.
Basic supply and demand stuff which some people dispense with when it is, you know ... inconvenient. The inconvenient truth, of course, is that basic economics requires the government to raise wages to attract workers to fill the jobs.
As GOPers sit on their hands ...
"More than 20,000 Floridians each week will see their unemployment benefits run dry starting in March unless Congress acts to extend their aid. In response to cries for help from South Florida and around the nation, the Senate this week plans to vote on a jobs bill that would give a tax break to employers who hire those who have been out of work for at least 60 days." "Thousands in Fla. to lose jobless benefits without Senate action".
The Miami Herald editors: "There's no better bargain today in higher education than the Florida Resident Access Grant, or FRAG. It helps high school graduates attend the state's nonprofit independent colleges and universities as part of a financial aid package. It's a bargain for the students -- and for Florida taxpayers." "Worth every penny".
"Confronting the worst failures of Florida's court system"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "In 2008, the Legislature passed a law intended to end the exhausting, humiliating debates over compensation for the wrongfully convicted. The legislation promised $50,000 a year for every year that an innocent person spent behind bars, plus college tuition and help transitioning back to society."
But the new law is laden with roadblocks. A process that should be easy, even automatic, is instead laborious -- so much so that the state just last week paid its first compensation under the law. Leroy McGee of Broward County, who spent 3 1/2 years in prison for a robbery he did not commit, delayed signing the agreement to accept $179,000 compensation because of injustices in the statute, he said last week."Fair repayment for years lost to injustice".
Even though he was acquitted in 1994, McGee had to prove his innocence all over again to claim the reimbursement and receive approval from the court where he was originally convicted. To do that, he had to find an attorney -- and despite the complex requirements to claim compensation, the new law doesn't provide for attorney reimbursement, or even court costs. ...
It gets worse. The compensation law is crippled by a so-called "clean hands" provision, which denies compensation to anyone with a prior felony conviction, even a minor one. Under that provision, Crotzer -- who, as a young man, once stole beer from a store -- would have been denied any compensation for the quarter-century he spent locked in a Florida prison. Instead, the Legislature approved $1.25 million in compensation for him. ...
Until they repair the flaws in the compensation bill, legislators will be confronting the worst failures of Florida's court system. But the people who suffer the most will be those innocent people who have already paid a high price for the state's mistakes.