"Is the world's greatest deliberative body ready for man hugs and back waxing?"
Those two images so far have defined the red-hot and increasingly hostile battle for Florida's Republican U.S. Senate nomination between Gov. Charlie Crist and former House Speaker Marco Rubio."Crist attacks heat up as latest poll shows Rubio 32 points ahead in Senate race".
Both men hope to use the images to paint the other as out-of-step on fiscal issues.
A picture of Crist hugging President Obama was used in Rubio's online fund-raisers and to ridicule the governor for being one of the few Republicans to support the federal stimulus plan.
The image helped transform Rubio's campaign from long-shot to front-runner. A Public Policy Polling survey showed Rubio up 60 percent-28 percent on Tuesday.
Crist is attempting to claw his way back by casting Rubio as dishonest with other people's money. Crist reminds voters that Rubio used his state party-issued credit card to ring up $16,000 in personal expenses, including $135 at a Miami barber shop.
Rubio said he used his own money to pay those bills and recently told Fox News that barber shop charge wasn't for just a haircut.
Crist, on the same cable channel Monday night, suggested Rubio may also have received a back wax.
"A poll released Tuesday shows former House Speaker Marco Rubio trouncing Crist for the Republican Senate nomination, 60-28."
The landslide margin reported by Public Policy Polling (PPP) of North Carolina is being read as another sign of deterioration -- if not impending implosion -- by a campaign that had held a similarly commanding lead just three months ago."Crist Ship Sinking".
The PPP polling was done March 5-8, well after the dust-up over Rubio's questionable GOP credit card expenditures.
"2010 Legislative session daily summary". See also "In Tallahassee today, it's teachers, texting and reptiles".
Thank you, Mr. Obama
"As state economists confirmed the $3.2 billion shortfall that Florida is facing next year, a bill advanced in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday that could shrink Florida's budget gap by one-third."
The economists' deliberations coincided with the advance of legislation in Congress that could pump more than $1 billion into Florida's Medicaid program."U.S. may aid Florida budget".
Medicaid is the biggest budget buster that lawmakers face this session, as high unemployment has forced more people to seek government assistance. Last year's federal stimulus package provided enhanced federal Medicaid funding only through the end of the 2010 calendar year, six months shy of the end of the 2010-11 fiscal year.
Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. Senate voted 66-34 to end debate on a sweeping bill that includes extending the Medicaid stimulus through June 2011. Florida's Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson voted to advance the bill.
Republican Sen. George LeMieux said he voted no because it would add $100 billion to the federal deficit without a clear means of paying for it. In a statement, LeMieux said he cast his vote "with a heavy heart," agreeing that many proposals in the bill would help Florida.
Rubio "helped push loads of hometown spending"
"Republican U.S. Senate front-runner Marco Rubio brags on his Web site that he didn't officially request budget pork in his last four years as a leader in the Florida House."
But during Rubio's eight years in office — including the final two when he was House speaker — he unofficially helped push loads of hometown spending: $250 million, according to a Times/Herald analysis of little-known budget documents."Marco Rubio sent his share of pork".
"State economists Tuesday found some good news in the fact that there wasn't any more bad news on the fiscal horizon." "State economists predict revenues will increase for first time in 3 years". Related: "New state jobless figures to suggest turnaround or new high".
"An inmate and three relatives have been charged with tax fraud in a second federal indictment stemming from an IRS tax scam that was run out of a jail near Key West." "2nd Florida Keys inmate indicted in prison tax scam".
"Poll incident in Pompano Beach livens up otherwise dull Election Day in Broward, Palm Beach counties".
"Floridians could get public records free of charge if it takes less than 30 minutes to produce them under a Sunshine law overhaul bill unanimously approved by its first Senate committee Tuesday." "Public records could be free".
"AP: Crist names power co. chief to Fla. school board". More: "Crist Reappoints Bush Staffers to State Board".
Return of "the old-fashioned chain gang"
"With budget cuts paring back landscaping along city roads, Orlando is bringing the old-fashioned chain gang to The City Beautiful." "Prisoners to mow Orlando medians".
It must be OK then ...
"As lawmakers waited Tuesday for the latest state revenue estimates, state Senate budget writers learned that other states are being forced to make widespread cuts in funding for popular school programs." "Lawmakers hear how other states have cut education".
Sales Tax Holiday
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board likes the Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday.
Counties benefit in direct proportion to the size of their school-age population, but all counties and even the state treasury benefit from this almost perfect form of tax relief — which provides an automatic economic stimulus for local and state governments as well as businesses."Our Opinion: Perfect tax relief".
Gov. Charlie Crist has recommended that the Legislature set aside 10 days for the tax holiday that Floridians enjoyed from 1998 until 2007 (during which it lasted between seven and 10 days). It was suspended last year on the theory that the state couldn't afford any loss of revenue during the recession.
But a study by the Washington Economics Group indicated that a proposed tax holiday would generate $1.7 billion in economic activity, of which close to $1 billion stays in the Florida economy.
Absolutely, 100% not guilty
"The Republican Party of Florida is demanding the Florida Democratic Party drop an elections complaint. A GOP lawyer wrote to the Democrats today saying a complaint filed last week has no merit." "State GOP: Democrats' complaint has no merit".
The Tampa Tribune editors: "Florida environmentalists are worried that a Monday New York Times article could derail a $536 million deal to purchase 73,000 acres from U.S. Sugar as part of the effort to rescue the Everglades. It would be better for the deal to be derailed if taxpayers are being fleeced. But that is not at all clear, despite the Times' effort to put the proposal in the worst possible light." "Proceed carefully with Glades". Related: "Key vote nears on Crist's Everglades restoration purchase of U.S. Sugar land".
"Long characterized as a symbol of racial terror, the noose might soon be banned in the state." "Lawmakers push measure to ban public display of noose".
"A controversial proposal under consideration in the Florida Legislature would exempt 911 calls from the public record." "Bill prohibits release of 911 calls".
"PSC inspector general requests FDLE investigation".
"Republican lawmakers are reviving leadership funds, which legislators used in the past as a place to funnel unspent campaign money in return for choice committee chairmanships." "Once-reviled funds on way back".
"Sacrificing is for suckers"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board writes that, "in the Wonderland that is Washington, D.C., members of Congress have been letting their belts out. As South Florida's Sun Sentinel recently reported, federal lawmakers voted themselves a 5 percent increase in their own budgets last year. They spent those taxpayer dollars for staff salaries — sometimes in six figures — office expenses and perks. In Florida's delegation, the perks included chauffeured car trips, pricey auto leases and an office aquarium."
Florida's two U.S. senators have annual budgets for office expenses of more than $4 million each, while the state's 25 House members each get about $1.5 million. When their budgets are combined with their Senate and House colleagues', the total of less than $2 billion almost gets lost amid this year's $3.6 trillion federal budget and $1.6 trillion projected deficit. Cutting congressional office expenses won't balance the budget."Taunting taxpayers".
But when lawmakers refuse to hold themselves back in tough times, it sends a message to struggling Americans: Sacrificing is for suckers.
Consider these office expenses last year from Florida House members:
Democrat Corrine Brown of Jacksonville, who represents a district where the per capita income is only two-thirds of the U.S. average, spent almost $8,000 last year for herself and her staff to ride in chauffeured cars or SUVs.
Democrat Ron Klein of Boca Raton, a self-described deficit hawk, increased his office spending by $30,000.
Democrat Alcee Hastings of Miramar spent the most on staff. He paid two of them — one his longtime girlfriend — about $160,000 each. Both fell just below the $168,000 limit for congressional staff salaries.
Republican Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami leased a Honda Odyssey minivan for $803 a month.
Republican Tom Rooney of Tequesta spent almost $2,500 on an aquarium in his office. He also spent $628 on bottled water.
Among Florida's House members, the top 10 office spenders last year were split evenly between Republicans and Democrats. The group included four members whose districts cover parts of Central Florida: Republicans Ginny Brown-Waite of Brooksville and Cliff Stearns of Ocala, and Democrats Alan Grayson of Orlando and Ms. Brown of Jacksonville.
Republican Adam Putnam of Bartow was the most frugal member of Central Florida's delegation. His office spent just 76 percent of its budget allotment.
"'Corruption County' bill"
"In another effort to shed its "Corruption County" label, the scandal-plagued Palm Beach County Commission has sparked a bill that would give all 67 counties the ability to strengthen penalties against crooked officials. " "Palm Beach County-inspired bill would let counties set stricter ethical standards".
Red light bill
"House committee OKs red light bill".
Census based aid
"As the 2010 Census approaches, a study shows South Florida and the rest of the state are on the short end of federal funding determined by the count." "Florida lags in U.S. aid based on Census". More: Dan Moffett writes that the "State must count on illegals: Florida needs their help in the census".