"The governor who brags about coming from a family of educators said he's ready to sign a bill bashed as a union-busting assault on public school teachers."
The so-called "teacher tenure'' bill, which makes it easier to fire teachers and ties pay increases to student test scores, is so controversial it passed the Senate on Wednesday in a 21-17 vote. No Democrats voted in support of the measure. ...Crist, with the neanderthal RPOFer primary voters watching his every move, can't wait to get in on the teacher-bashing:
The tenure legislation was one of three education measures passed by the Senate in a conservative push to transform public schools. Under the package of legislation, students could face tougher graduation requirements, more money could be directed toward private schools and a slew of teacher benefits could be eliminated.
Crist has said he would sign each bill.And then there's the voucher madness:
The bill's sponsor, Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, said drastic changes are needed to transform failing public schools and prepare students for the global economy. "It's about our children and the future of our children and what is best for our children,'' said Thrasher.
But Broward Superintendent Jim Notter called state Senate Bill 6 "a crushing blow against our most important employees, our teachers.''
Roughly 5,000 voucher supporters crammed the Capitol courtyard, including more than 900 from Miami-Dade and about 400 from the Tampa Bay area in matching light blue shirts that read, "Leveling the Playing Field.''"School-reform bill advances in Florida Legislature". See also "Florida Senate OKs merit pay, tougher graduation rules".
Crist addressed the cheering crowd.
"Your future is priceless and Florida understands that,'' he said.
But Notter, the Broward superintendent, said he was very concerned about the vouchers.
"When there is no money, to continue to take money out of public education is clear insanity,'' he said. "It defies logic.''
Crist's knuckle-dragging is
a big blow to the state's main teachers union, the Florida Education Association, whose bargaining power and clout in the Capitol hang in the balance. The union once counted Crist as a reliable political ally, one who used to try to boost teacher pay and who often reminds audiences that two of his sisters are educators."Senate approves education changes". See also "Teachers union calls merit pay plan passed by Florida Senate an "assault"", "Florida Senate approves tougher graduation requirements", "Fla. Senate Passes Voucher Expansion, Teacher Merit Pay", "Crist stumps for vouchers", "A Flood of Support for Tax-Credit Scholarship Bill", "Senate passes bill that expands corporate-funded tuition vouchers" and "5,500 rally for vouchers".
But now Crist is in the political fight of his life in a partisan Republican primary in which unions hold little sway.
"Bashing teachers is good for certain conservative members," said Andy Ford, the union's president, who bemoaned that there's "no collaboration. There is no cooperation" from Republican leaders. "They are going to do what's in their best political interest and not what's best for students," he said.
Charlie's credit card problem ...
"Campaign finance reports show Charlie Crist's struggling U.S. Senate campaign has enjoyed some questionable expenses on the Florida Republican Party's American Express account.The disclosures come at a time when Crist has been hammering rival Marco Rubio for inappropriate expenses on his state party credit card when he was state House speaker."
The Crist campaign also reported nearly $17,000 in ``reimbursement'' to the state party's credit card, which three experts called a potential violation of federal campaign finance law. State parties are not allowed to contribute, advance or loan a federal candidate more than $5,000 in a primary."Charlie Crist campaign also used GOP credit cards".
Even if the Crist campaign promptly paid off the party's credit card charge, "the Federal Election Commission would likely find that an advance in excess of $5,000 resulted in an excessive contribution,'' said Washington attorney Chris Gober, former general counsel to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
"The Legislature will continue to play a leading role in setting tuition for Florida's 11 public universities under an agreement reached today with the board that oversees the schools. The deal follows a decision Monday by the Board of Governors to withdraw from a lawsuit against the Legislature over which body controls tuition and other governance issues." "Board of Governors, colleges to share tuition power".
"Legislature, Seminoles closer to a deal on state gambling regulations".
"Most of the tax credits that Florida Republicans would use to attract film companies to the state would be cashed in by well-established corporations such as Wal-Mart, Sherwin-Williams or Bank of America." "GOP-proposed tax credits would be sellable perk".
"The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says preliminary data shows manatee deaths have exceeded the highest number on record for an entire calendar year." "Manatee deaths at record 431 in 2010".
"A swift kick into oblivion"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Suddenly, a new strip mall turns up two blocks away from your home. What about public notices? Permit hearings? Not needed any more if the Florida Senate gets its way."
Supposedly, Florida lawmakers were going to refrain from their habitual attempts to gut growth-management laws this year to appease sprawl-averse voters and ensure reelection in November. Legislators want to avoid stirring up support for the Hometown Democracy ballot question, which would give voters control over local land-use decisions."Stop developers' handout".
But their bad old habits overcame political prudence with SB 1752, a jobs bill with unrelated provisions to water down permitting rules to the immense benefit of developers and huge expense of local communities. After just a single committee hearing, this travesty is slated for a vote by the Senate Thursday.
It deserves a swift kick into oblivion.
Bought and paid for
"A Senate panel voted on Wednesday to let property insurers raise their rates without approval from regulators, despite public urging from Gov. Charlie Crist that lawmakers reject the plan." "Crist and Senate at odds over insurance rate bill".
"The GOP as a triumph of style over substance"
Bill Cotterell: In "Buddy MacKay's new memoir, 'How Florida Happened,' the author adds a cautionary tale that should be listened to by the governor, Legislature and those who wish to be governor or legislators. After the sunny optimism of campaigning comes the harsh reality of governing a state with soaring needs and receding revenues, he writes. And anyone who tries to change it, making hard choices and (dare we say it?) increasing taxes, will pay for such 'liberalism' at the polls."
MacKay describes "the rise of the GOP as a triumph of style over substance — a hot fudge sundae diet that never requires eating your beets and asparagus."
"Jeb Bush happened to govern during a time when things went well fiscally, but not because of anything he did," writes MacKay. "The surplus funds accumulated by our administration were not reserved to help in bad times but were instead squandered in the form of tax cuts for the wealthy.""MacKay new book has warnings for politicians".
And now, with the housing and job numbers down, he says, "Gov. Charlie Crist found himself facing this same double bind and realized toward the end of his third year in office that things would probably not improve politically in Florida until the national crisis in housing finance had run its course.
"Unless he had somehow summoned the courage to raise taxes in an election year, he would have found himself running for office after having been forced to slash the state budget in four consecutive years," writes MacKay. "Faced with this reality, Crist prudently decided that it was time to run for the U.S. Senate." ...
"Everyone in Florida politics — conservative and liberal — knows what needs to be done, but actually doing it is another matter," he writes. "What Florida needs is another Reubin Askew — someone willing to treat Floridians like adults."
From the "values" crowd
"Award-winning Pasco libraries again face cuts".
She "didn't change her vote on health care reform -- the legislation did. That's the explanation from Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, D-New Smyrna Beach, on why she voted against the health care reform legislation before she voted for it Sunday as she answered critics who complained about her turnaround Wednesday at a tele-town meeting."
To one Port Orange caller's complaint that she voted against the will of the people and allowed her vote to be brokered, Kosmas said, "When I voted in November, I didn't think the bill before us was fiscally responsible. When people understand what good things are in the bill for them ... I'm confident" they'll support the legislation."Kosmas: Legislation changes led to vote".
Nearly 8,000 people clicked into Wednesday's hourlong meeting during which she took live questions from constituents on the new health care law. The law is expected to cover 94 percent of the population by 2014 using new rules for health insurance coverage for individuals and businesses, government subsidies to help people who can't afford coverage and new rules for insurance companies.
Kosmas, who said calls to her office are split 50-50 on the reform's passage, hailed the new law as not only the humanitarian thing to do, but also the most significant deficit reduction measure in 17 years.
One caller said he was "disappointed" in the outcome of the vote -- particularly because Republicans were not included in the discussions that created the law. But Kosmas said that's not the case.
"On a day when the Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance's board discussed transparency and accountability to the public, several board members were surprised to learn that the agency's former executive director had been paid about $49,000 for unused vacation time." "Workforce agency board members surprised by Gilmore's payout". The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Workforce boards need to be reined in"
"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".
"McCollum files federal suit against health-care plan".
"Outgunned Senate Democrats slowed a Republican education package Tuesday, knowing they can't stop plans to relax class-size limits and give schools more power to fire teachers." "Dems fighting class-size limit changes".
"After a sharp Senate debate Wednesday, a bill is headed to Gov. Charlie Crist's desk that would revive and modify a Florida 'electioneering' law that was ruled unconstitutional last year by a federal judge who said it violated freedom of speech."
The debate, though, wasn't about that part of the bill. It focused on a rider that would let the House speaker and Senate president and leaders of the minority party in each chamber establish a special political fund that could be used to help favored candidates."State Senate passes 'electioneering law' changes". See also "Election finance bill sent to Crist".
Passage came during a rare evening session after the Senate waived a rule that normally would have delayed a vote until Thursday. Crist has said he's not sure yet whether he will sign it into law.
Raw political courage
"Senate committee approves lowering auto tag and driver’s licence fees".
Thank you, Mr. Obama
"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." "Overhaul aims to close gap in Medicare drug coverage".
"We thought he was different. Ideologically pure"
"Crist on Wednesday launched his first TV ad in the Republican U.S. Senate primary, a 30-second assault on Marco Rubio's image as a darling of the conservative insurgency."
"We thought he was different. Ideologically pure," a narrator says. "Marco Rubio shot to national stardom. Called 'the Republican Obama.' Now, comes the truth.""U.S. Senate hopefuls Crist and Rubio slug it out with television commercials".
Just over an hour after the announcement, Rubio said he'd put two 15-second ads on the air, designed to bracket Crist's spot. Both ads feature Crist's embrace of President Barack Obama during a federal stimulus rally.
Rubio has used the image repeatedly to portray Crist as less than conservative.
Crist's ad draws on a series of Times/Herald reports on Rubio's use of a Republican Party-issued American Express card for personal items and for failing to disclose all expenses for a political committee, as required by law. Rubio has disputed the reports and says he sent about $16,000 to American Express to cover personal expenses.
"In the midst of delivering an impassioned speech decrying President Obama's healthcare reform, GOP congressional hopeful Corey Poitier veered dangerously off-script."
"Listen up, Buckwheat -- this is not how it is done!'' Poitier blurted out."GOP congressional hopeful Corey Poitier: `Buckwheat' remark wasn't racist".
Whatever business wants ...
"Big Internet travel sites are on their way to a significant victory over Florida's hoteliers and cash-strapped counties. And it's difficult to figure out why. Consumers also will be losers if the travel sites prevail."
Last week, a bill that would have equalized local resort-tax levies for rooms booked online (HB 335) faltered in a key House committee. Instead, the committee members approved a second bill (HB 1241) that would explicitly sanction Web sites such as Travelocity and Expedia charging their customers hefty, unitemized "taxes and fees" without passing a fair share on to the local governments who rely on those fees to promote tourism-related advertising and facilities."Reservations online".
Either piece of legislation would settle the dispute over how Internet-booked rooms are supposed to be taxed. But only the first bill would do so fairly.
"Karl Rove tells Naples audience health-care bill is ill-advised, Democrats to suffer".
Thanks again, Mr. Obama
"High-speed rail construction may begin next year".
"Floridians should be skeptical"
The Saint Petersburg Times editors: "When the governor and legislators claim creating more tax breaks and allowing developers to build wherever they want will create jobs and bring back prosperity, Floridians should be skeptical."
When Gov. Charlie Crist caved in to developers last year and eviscerated Florida's growth management laws, he pledged to push the Legislature this year to create a new fee to help pay for roads to accommodate new development. Lawmakers even included in the legislation a study on how to create such a mobility fee. So much for promises."Jobs bill eases limits on growth".
The study is sitting on a shelf, and the governor has not made a peep about it. Meanwhile, the Senate takes up legislation today that continues the assault on growth management. Masquerading as a major job creation bill, SB 1752 is stuffed with special interest tax breaks and provisions aimed at letting developers run roughshod over the few remaining checks on paving what's left of Florida. This is not about helping the unemployed find work. This is about using the recession as an excuse to create more tax breaks and weaken environmental protections to please powerful special interests in an election year.
"Floridians slower than others in returning Census forms".