"'Still punishing teachers'"
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Less than a month after unveiling a radical plan to do away with teacher tenure in Florida public schools, Senate Republicans have stripped the plan of two of its most offensive ideas, including demands that school districts base more than 50 percent of teachers' salaries on student performance."
But the legislation still is a largely punitive measure that goes too far in stripping protections from teachers and undermining local control."Senate still punishing teachers". See also "Fla. Senate beginning debate on education bills".
The Senate is poised to vote on SB 6, which envisions a future where any teacher hired after July 1 has no guarantee of a job year-to-year. That would make it far easier to get rid of a teacher without having to endure laborious discipline proceedings. Teachers could find their contracts simply not renewed the next year. The bill also offers a form of merit pay that would enable high-performing teachers to earn more far more quickly than their lower-performing counterparts. ...
But this bill would put even the best teachers on permanent defense to hold on to their jobs. Despite its improvements, it remains a sledgehammer when what is required is a scalpel.
Complaint against Rubio
"Former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio misspent donations to the Republican Party of Florida and his political committees 'to subsidize his lifestyle,' according to a sweeping complaint filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics."
The complaint filed by Michael D. Ryan of Fort Lauderdale also says Rubio ---- now a U.S. Senate candidate competing against Gov. Charlie Crist -- used his public office to get an unadvertised job at Florida International University when it was laying off faculty."Complaint targets Rubio's spending".
Ryan, a retired businessman, said he used to be registered as a Republican but hasn't voted in years and has "zero political agenda.''
Ryan gave $2,300 to former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2007 because, he said, he was in business with one of her supporters, basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. Rubio's campaign seized on the donation as evidence of Ryan's motives.
"Days before he was sworn in as speaker of the Florida House, Marco Rubio and his top deputies hopped on a charter plane to Washington, checked into a $600-a-night hotel hosting a Republican party conference and hired a chauffeur to squire them around the city."
The costs were charged to the state party-issued credit card belonging to Rubio's chief of staff, Richard Corcoran, a Republican operative recently transferred to the state payroll. During the five months of his $175,000-a-year job in Rubio's office, Corcoran continued spending tens of thousands of dollars in party donations for a slew of expenses, including dinners out with his boss, personalized chairs for Republican leaders and $4,600 for electronics, according to American Express statements obtained by The Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times."Corcoran's hefty credit card bills -- $60,000 in one two-month period alone -- reflect the free-wheeling party spending on travel and dining that disgraced Rubio's successor, indicted former Rep. Ray Sansom of Destin, and cost former state party chairman Jim Greer his job. State law bans public employees from working on political campaigns while on duty." "Marco Rubio's ex-aide put hefty expenses on GOP credit card".
Tea party = RPOF
Ron Rae thinks "the tea party is the Republican Party is the tea party …" "Stimulus flattened Crist's campaign".
"In Tallahassee today, immigration and insurance". See also "2010 Legislature summary".
"Helping local communities or spending too many federal tax dollars? Lawmakers' pet projects -- or earmarks -- emerge as an issue in the U.S. Senate race." "Kendrick Meek seeks $238M for pet projects".
"Hospital and nursing home reimbursements would be cut, schools would get less money per student and most state workers would see a 3 percent pay cut, while overall state spending would rise by $700 million under a proposed $67.2 billion budget bill that cleared a Florida House committee today. The Senate's larger $68.6 billion version is scheduled for final committee action Thursday or Friday. Both bills then head for floor votes next week. That will be followed by negotiations to resolve differences before the 60-day legislative session's scheduled conclusion on April 30." "State House panel OKs $67.2 billion budget bill". See also "Fla. House panel OKs $67.2 billion budget bill".
Background: "Florida Senate and House roll out competing state budget plans".
Thanks for your hard work
"Lawmakers: Slash pensions for teachers, police, firefighters".
"Captain Morgan is packing his bags and moving to the U.S. Virgin Islands — a relocation that is making waves from Puerto Rico to Washington and riling some Central Florida politicians." "Tax breaks for Captain Morgan ignite rum war in Caribbean".
The Orlando Sentinel editors: "The country's largest subtropical wilderness appears certain to die without a major effort to restore it."
Which is why we backed the agreement between Washington and Florida in 2000 to revive the Everglades, devastated from years of farming, development and mismanagement. And why we later encouraged Gov. Charlie Crist in his efforts in 2008 to leapfrog the earlier agreement."Time to renegotiate with U.S. Sugar".
The federal government had reneged on its obligations to fund the restoration, and Mr. Crist's plan to buy out one of the River of Grass' worst polluters seemed early on a more viable way to extend the ecosystem's life.
But it's not viable any more. Not by a long shot. It's overpriced, unaffordable and, by itself, won't rejuvenate the Glades. The state needs to renegotiate the terms of its deal with U.S. Sugar, or opt out altogether.
"Bring it on"
"The White House says it isn't worried that 13 state attorneys general are suing to overturn the massive health care overhaul, and many legal experts agree the effort is futile."
But the lawsuit, filed in federal court seven minutes after President Barack Obama signed the 10-year, $938 billion health care bill, underscores the divisiveness of the issue and the political rancor that has surrounded it."White House, experts: State's health care suit will fail". See also "McCollum files federal suit against health-care plan" and "Mike Thomas: Can health care stand up to legal challenges?" and "McCollum sues to stop federal health-care bill". More: "Republicans' lawsuit to fight health care law could cost Florida $50,000".
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum led the effort to file the suit that claims Congress doesn't have the constitutional right to force people to get health coverage. It also says the federal government is violating the Constitution by forcing a mandate on the states without providing resources to pay for it.
"To that I say, 'Bring it on,'" said White House domestic policy chief Melody Barnes, who cited similar suits filed over Social Security and the Voting Rights Act when those were passed. "If you want to look in the face of a parent whose child now has health care insurance and say we're repealing that ... go right ahead."
A 14th state, Virginia, did not join the bigger lawsuit, but filed its own, which other states are also considering.
McCollum, a Republican running for governor, has been talking about suing to overturn the bill since December. This month he invited other attorneys general to join him. So far South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Michigan, Utah, Pennsylvania, Alabama, South Dakota, Idaho, Washington, Colorado and Louisiana have agreed.
All the attorneys general are Republican except James "Buddy" Caldwell of Louisiana, a Democrat, who said he signed on because Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal asked him to and he felt the effort had merit.
"From newspapers to blogs to cable news, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum captured the national spotlight Tuesday for leading the court fight against President Barack Obama's health care overhaul." "McCollum's lawsuit could backfire".
"In an escalating political and legal battle over America's new health-reform law, Florida is again ground zero in an election year. And at stake is a renewed debate over who is setting the national agenda."
Amid hyper-partisanship that rivals the 2000 presidential election, Attorney General Bill McCollum and 12 other state attorneys general filed suit in federal district court in Pensacola Tuesday, challenging the constitutionality of the federal plan that requires all Americans to obtain health coverage."Echoes of 2000 in Health Care Contest".
"This will ultimately wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court, where we will prevail," McCollum said, flanked by 50 state Republican lawmakers.
McCollum, following through on an earlier promise, filed suit less than an hour after President Barack Obama signed the historic legislation.
House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, called the health-care program a "massive expansion of federal control."
Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, called it "an invasion of the state's historic sovereignty."
Lawmakers in at least 30 states are working to prevent what they say is an unconstitutional mandate forcing Americans to have health insurance. But Florida, as in the prolonged Gore-vs.-Bush contest, is at the epicenter.
As a bellwether state, Florida's demographics and politics reflect the national mood.
McCollum hands work to his partner
"McCollum said his office will contract with his former business partner, David Rivkin of Baker & Hostetler, to litigate the suit."
The contract is capped $50 thousand. It was unclear how the 13 states might split that cost."Democrats slam McCollum's hiring of ex-law partner to handle health care challenge".
State CFO Alex Sink, McCollum's probable Democratic rival in the governor's race, called it a "sweetheart contract" and said McCollum should have put the contract out for a bid.
"It's unfortunate that he's using taxpayer money to file a suit on behalf of the people of the state of Florida when in fact this legislation is going to provide help for many, many Floridians," Sink said.
"Attorneys for the News-Journal's parent company and the Davidson family repeatedly asked for a delay of the sale to allow the economy to improve. Antoon said that while he understood that argument, he was in "no position" to do so."
The new owners include Michael Redding, who will be the News-Journal president and publisher, a Destin newspaper investor and Stephens Capital Partners of Little Rock, a private equity firm based in Little Rock, Ark. ..."Judge approves sale of News-Journal".
Redding is the CEO of HarborPoint Media of Daytona Beach, which owns The Daily Commercial in Leesburg and other publications.
The sale ends a lawsuit between the News-Journal and minority shareholder Cox Enterprises.
Cox sued in 2004 after the News-Journal pledged $13 million for naming rights of an arts center on Beach Street. The News-Journal opted to buy Cox's shares, which led to a lengthy court battle over value.
In 2006, after a trial, Antoon ordered the value of Cox's 47.5 percent ownership at $129 million. Since that was more than the Davidson-family led group said it could pay, the newspaper company was put on the market.
It is not yet certain whether Cox will seek the difference between the judgment and sale price from members of the Davidson family and the parent company's board of directors.
It remains to be seen if The Daytona Beach News Journal will continue to provide the most progressive editorials, by far, of any mainstream newspaper in Florida
"Florida Senate panel OKs bill that tightens Bright Futures eligibility rules".
"Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, was the main sponsor of a constitutional amendment (SJR 2) asking voters next November if they want to change the 2002 mandates for smaller class sizes. The current limits — 18 kids per class in kindergarten through third grade, 22 in grades four through eight and 25 in high school — are highly prized by the Florida Education Association, a powerful force in the Democratic Party." "Dems fighting class-size limit changes".
"Legislative leaders strike deal with business lobby and trial lawyers".
"Even as President Barack Obama signed a landmark health care reform bill into law Tuesday, advocates for the elderly urged lawmakers to close a gap in Medicare drug coverage affecting 300,000 Floridians. The Floridians are among millions of seniors across the country who each year fall into Medicare's 'doughnut hole' gap in prescription drug coverage and suddenly find themselves having to pay 100 percent of their drug costs." "Overhaul aims to close gap in Medicare drug coverage".
"Bay area population increases in 2009 (but just barely)".
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "Floridians produce 93 Empire State Buildings' worth of solid waste -- 32 million tons a year. And most of it goes into landfills, with incinerators a close second."
In 1988, the state Legislature set a modest goal of recycling 30 percent of that massive pile of garbage. Today, the state is only recycling 28 percent. There are plenty of reasons -- recycling can be expensive to implement, people don't want to take the trouble, markets for recyclable materials are unpredictable. But there should be no excuses."Recycling Florida". Background: "Constantine’s recycling bill would boost reuse of solid waste to 75% by 2020".
A bill that would dramatically increase the state's commitment to recycling is making its way through the House and Senate. If approved, SB 570 would give Florida the most ambitious recycling goal in the nation, specifying that 75 percent of all solid waste should be recycled by 2020.
It certainly challenges the imagination. Florida failed to reach the 30 percent mark in 22 years, but will leap so far ahead in just 10? But the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs, contains common-sense provisions that would encourage progress. It would create tougher reporting requirements -- for businesses, private haulers and local governments -- to identify weak links in the recycling effort.
What's wrong with Hillsborough?
"Bean, Lee placed on 90 days leave with pay". The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Muddled board delays search for fresh leader". The Saint Petersburg Times editors: "Commissioners create a leadership vacuum".
"Facing increasing criticism, Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty assured state leaders Tuesday he is working to stabilize the state's troubled insurance market." "Unease over Florida's property insurance stability growing".
From the "values" crowd
"Facing one of the leanest budget years in decades, children's advocates worked the Capitol on Tuesday, determined to fight social-service cuts that could top $600 million." "Children's advocates plead case".
"The two Republican candidates for Florida's U.S. Senate seat said they were disappointed to see the healthcare bill signed into law Tuesday. The two Democrats disagreed." "Florida U.S. Senate candidates differ on healthcare law". See also "Rubio pounds Democrats' health care bill at Boca Raton Republican dinner".