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Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.
"Marco Rubio, R-Little Lord Fauntleroy-Lite"
Daniel Ruth: "Here's a lesson for all you aspiring officeholders. If you want to glad-hand, baby-buss and back-slap your way to the top of the hustings ladder, you need to portray yourself as a fighter, always fighting for you and you and, of course, you."
You want to fight special interests. You want to fight for freedom. You want to fight for justice. You want to fight for the American way. That's because you are a fighter. You're tough. You're steadfast. You're a brawler for democracy is what you are. Ooooooh, so scary.Much more here: "Marco Rubio ducks and covers".
Why you're the Sean Penn of the Bill of Rights, that is until things begin to go a little south for you and you suddenly find yourself cowering in a corner like the slapped, shell-shocked soldier in Patton.
You're Marco Rubio, R-Little Lord Fauntleroy-Lite.
Until very recently things had been going fairly swimmingly for Rubio in his quest to wrest the Republican U.S. Senate nomination from Gov. Charlie Crist and his perennial running mate — Mr. Bluebird On My Shoulder.
Rubio has been rising in the polls while raising gobs of cash. And he's been anointed the beefcake boy of the Tea Party cultists, the Scientologists of American politics. Good times, good times.
But as disclosures have mounted in recent days that during his tenure as the speaker of the Florida House Rubio treated his office — and the Republican credit card that came with it — as his own personal ATM machine after running through some $600,000 in political funds while seeking the job, the Senate candidate has mysteriously become less visible (and accountable) than the last time Dick Cheney dined alone.
Instead, Rubio, R-The Man Who Came To Dinner, and Breakfast and Lunch, opted to respond to questions about his spending, including at least $34,000 in unexplained expenses, by way of video press releases and sycophantic flacks in an effort to tut-tut and harrumph-harrumph away the perception that in the former speaker's hands, political committees and a Republican Party credit card were weapons of mass self-indulgence.
To be sure, when your entire raison d'etre for your candidacy is that you are a tight-fisted, penurious nickel-squeezer, it probably doesn't help to be exposed as a free-spending Imelda Marcos Rubio, who also dropped nearly $20,000 in political funds on family members.
"Hospitals, nursing homes and programs that help disabled people are facing cuts, nearly 250,000 more Medicaid patients would be moved into managed care programs and state money for libraries would be eliminated in budget bills approved by Senate committees Friday." "Senate cuts hospital, library spending; may spare schools".
"Teacher pay would be based on how well students do on standardized tests under a bill set for a final fight in the Senate. " "http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/state/senate-committee-passes-teacher-merit-pay-bill-with-402735.html".
"Hillsborough County would be the only school district in the state exempted from a proposed law that ties teacher pay to student performance on end-of-year assessment tests." "Local schools may get pass on teacher pay law".
"Senate lawmakers are proposing to spend more than the state House on K-12 public schools - but they also assume that 24 counties, including Hillsborough, will levy additional property taxes." "Senate budget would raise education spending".
In the end, they're Dems
"U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd, who voted against national health care last November, said Friday he will vote for the new bill when it comes to the House floor." "Boyd to vote yes on federal health-care legislation".
"U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas says she will support Democrats' health care reform plans. The New Smyrna Beach congresswoman ended days of speculation Friday with a statement saying she will support the bill in a planned House vote Sunday." "Kosmas to support health bill". See also "Kosmas: I will vote for health-care bill" and "Kosmas swayed to vote for bill".
In the meantime, Scott Maxwell believes the "GOP offers up strong foes in Kosmas race" (the link is temporarily disabled).
"With financing plans for the U.S. Sugar deal in doubt, water managers are exploring cutting projects and selling land as options to raise cash for Everglades restoration." "Florida water managers weigh cuts, selloffs to finance U.S. Sugar deal".
From the "values" crowd
"Despite growing enrollment, cuts would pack more kids into pre-K classes".
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "Though it doesn't look like it on the surface, a piece of legislation requiring a college degree of anyone appointed to the Public Service Commission is a bit of payback chicanery aimed at getting the PSC's tenacious Nancy Argenziano off the independent regulatory board."
Chairwoman Argenziano is the only one of the five commissioners without an undergraduate college degree, though she was an accomplished state representative and senator for 10 years before her appointment to the utilities regulatory agency by Gov. Charlie Crist. She is the ultimate self-made, self-educated woman, and rather fearless.The anti-Argenziano bill
That is no doubt threatening enough to inspire a 72-page House committee bill that would do far more — and, objectively, far worse — than get rid of one member who is often pesky to Big Utilities. The proposal would put the entire PSC regulatory staff under political control of the Legislature and strip away the PSC's power to open cases on its own, gather information from utilities, reduce rates, even go to court to be sure its own rulings are enforced.
It would also limit future PSC appointees to those with utility experience or other professional backgrounds (read, "lots of lawyers") though not "public policy experience."
In other words, the PSC would be set up as a political arm of the Legislature instead of having the autonomy it now has to evaluate utilities issues with some modicum of objectivity. The PSC commissioners became appointed offices (gubernatorial appointment; Senate confirmation) rather than elected years ago precisely because the need to raise money to win election provided an almost inherent conflict with utilities that supplied the campaign money.
is supported by Sen. Mike Haridopolos, who is in line to be the next Senate president [and according to one RPOFer Senator] "reeks of the utility companies' participation" and puts lawmakers back in the politics of regulation.House should back off proposed PSC changes".
Lawyering up in Hillsborough
"County's auditor asks for legal representation".
Not even a "pretense of regulation"
"Officially, Florida's property-insurance industry is regulated by the Office of Insurance Regulation."
Insurers have to justify their property-insurance premium rate increases to gain approval from regulators. In reality, regulation is superficial, often resembling the shell game insurers play to hide profits, deny coverage then complain that they need to charge higher rates to stay in business. Legislators, led by Bill Proctor, R-St. Augustine, are attempting to do away even with the pretense of regulation."Property insurance shams".
Thank you, Mr. Obama
"State lawmakers are piecing together a budget for next year that makes more cuts to programs and relies on billions more in federal stimulus money to stave off even deeper reductions." "Lawmakers piece together state budget".
"Most agency heads and other top state workers would be required to live near the state capital and compile reports every three months of how much they spend on job-related travel under a budget proposal released Friday by the Florida House." "Florida House wants agency chiefs to move to Tallahassee area".
Always on the campaign trail
A Saint Petersburg Times puff piece: "State Sen. Mike Fasano crusades against arrogance".
"Florida Senate panel okays tougher Bright Futures standards". See also "Gloomy economy threatens Bright Futures grants".
A bit of a reach
"Crist, who trails GOP Senate primary rival Marco Rubio in polls, reminded a Republican audience at a $500-a-head fund-raiser for his Senate campaign in Vero Beach on Thursday, that party patriarch Abraham Lincoln's 1864 reelection wasn't always a sure thing." "Crist compares struggle to Lincoln, style to Reagan during Vero Beach speech".
"Florida last year taxed motorists' wallets. Now, it's taxing their patience." "DMV customers pay more as state closes offices, freezes hiring".
The Wal-Martization of Florida continues
"Motorists would get a $6 reduction in their annual license plate fees and a chance to save much more by opting for tags emblazoned with corporate logos under legislation that cleared a state Senate committee Friday." "Florida Senate panel proposes drivers pay less for license plates bearing corporate logos".
"The Florida House will roll out an oil-drilling bill in two weeks, Speaker-designate and chief proponent Dean Cannon said Friday." "House will float oil-drilling bill".
The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Census could help Florida gain more congressional seats and more federal dollars".
"Crushing blow to political career"
"A Miami-Dade judge dealt a crushing blow to the political career of ousted Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones Friday, siding with the governor on his right to suspend Spence-Jones from office as she fights a pair of felony charges. " "Judge: Crist has authority to suspend Miami commissioner".