"For Florida Republicans, the silver lining to dire economic times is this: A scarcity of tax dollars is creating momentum to impose their economic and ideological leanings on how the state spends its money."
As the 60-day legislative session nears the midpoint, House and Senate leaders are advancing a gamut of ideas designed to play to their political base, from cutting taxes on corporations to a referendum asking Congress to balance its budget. There is ballot language denouncing the federal health-care reform."They're also waging an assault on public-employee unions by trying to end teacher tenure and lifting class-size caps, scaling back pension benefits, privatizing prisons and even threatening to blow up an entire state agency." "Analysis: Florida Republicans use tough times to play to base".
Another fine RPOFer
"Gov. Charlie Crist apparently has no problem with a Senate campaign supporter calling President Barack Obama 'the black one' and primary opponent Marco Rubio 'a Hispanic who can run his mouth.'"
Retired Col. Bud Day, who was featured in Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads that attacked former Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's military record, endorsed Crist and then spoke to the Northwest Florida Daily News about the race.
"Crist ignores race-tinged words for Obama, Rubio". See also "Bud Day's remarks make waves nationwide" ("Retired Air Force Col. Bud Day’s comments Monday regarding President Barack Obama and former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio reverberated across the nation Tuesday"), "Election comments fall back on 'Bud' Day" and "Bud Day endorses Charlie Crist".
Day said Obama is "a politician who can run his mouth at Mach 1, a black one" before making similar comments about Rubio.
Raw political courage
"Legislators propose raiding state trust funds to balance budget".
Awakening the Sleeping Giant
"Teachers, parents and students turn into lobbyists as they make hundreds of phone calls and send hundreds of thousands of e-mails to protest an education bill." "Massive protest targets education bill in Florida Legislature".
There's always tomorrow
"Crist signs bill delaying unemployment tax increase".
"Another underhanded attack on growth management"
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "The Florida Legislature showed last week why it can't be trusted."
Measures that would have allowed developers to escape local regulations and could have shut down Hillsborough County's Environmental Protection Commission were slipped into a jobs bill that looked to be heading for passage until local officials objected.
"Watch sneaky lawmakers".
Fortunately, Hillsborough state Sen. Ronda Storms ensured the damaging provisions were stripped from the legislation before it was unanimously approved by the full Senate.
It was yet another underhanded attack on growth management by legislators intent on giving developers whatever they want.
Update: Al Lawson to the rescue:
GOP leaders in the Florida Senate appeared Tuesday night to back off on a controversial budget proposal that would force the closure of two state prisons in order to open a cheaper private one.
"Legislature cuts deal to keep 2 prisons open".
Senate Minority Leader Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, said Senate budget chief JD Alexander and Senate President Jeff Atwater have agreed not to require the state to shutter two as-yet unnamed prisons and privatize one to fill the private Blackwater River Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa County.
That privatization plan, from Senate Ways and Means Chairman Alexander, appears in the proposed 2010-11 budget that the full Senate will begin considering today.
Lawson, who filed an amendment late Monday that would strip the Blackwater plan from the budget entirely, said Tuesday night that he will file another that will leave it up to the state Department of Corrections how best to fill the private facility.
"A costly symbol of Florida's budget crisis stands on a dusty country road in the Panhandle: a nearly completed private prison that cost the state $113 million and still sits idle two years later."
The fate of the empty complex is now the subject of an intense political fight in the Capitol.
"Panhandle prison embroiled in political fight". See also "New Florida private prison lacks inmates, but has political support".
The lawmaker who writes the Senate budget says opening Blackwater River Correctional Institution in Milton will save the state millions of dollars.
But opening privately-run Blackwater could force the closing of two state prisons. And the influential labor union for correctional officers says 639 guards would lose their jobs during a time of record unemployment.
Gov. Charlie Crist said he doesn't oppose private prisons, but he doesn't want to lay off state workers. "I want to do everything to protect jobs, jobs jobs,'' he said Tuesday.
"Ousted House Speaker Ray Sansom on Tuesday filed a motion to dismiss criminal charges against him, saying it is 'impossible as a matter of law' to have endeavored or conspired to commit the theft of U.S. currency. The former House budget chairman says it was up to the Florida Department of Education -- not him -- to make sure a building he got funding for in 2007 was not misused." "Ex-House Speaker Ray Sansom seeks dismissal of criminal charges".
Gutting the clerks
"Clerks of Court bemoan more budget cuts".
"The dam is already broken"
"The death knell for democracy? Or a vital protection for First Amendment rights?"
Those two views represent the extremes of the wide range of reactions to the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling on Jan. 21 that clears the way for corporations and unions to directly finance advertising that supports or opposes candidates for federal office.
"The Federal Elections Commission is reviewing the Supreme Court decision to determine how its rules must be revised, spokeswoman Judith Ingram said."
Yet many experts believe the impact might not be as tumultuous as critics fear -- as long as authorities enforce the ruling's demand to require disclosure of the funding sources for political ads.
One reason it might not be a dam-breaker, some reasoned, is the dam is already broken.
Opinions of the ruling are largely split across partisan lines, with Democrats complaining the ruling destroys a century of established law barring direct corporate involvement in politics and Republicans hailing it as a victory for free speech.
Opponents of corporate campaign funding hope the new rules include strict standards requiring disclosure of funding sources as called for in the order written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, and stipulating that corporations making independent expenditures cannot coordinate their messages with candidates. Coordination would make the ads contributions and not independent expenditures, the court said. ...
"Court ruling may not change Fla. campaigns".
The ruling should have no impact on Florida's campaign finance laws [which govern state offices only], said Jennifer Davis, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of State.
Good luck with that
The Orlando Sentinel editors think "Florida and teachers unions need to work together for Race to the Top second chance".
Scott Maxwell has a better take:
Lawmakers were thrilled to tick off teachers with a merit-pay plan ... until the feds slammed them for not working well with teachers. So then the pols who preach personal responsibly to others decided to blame the teachers ... for a plan teachers opposed in the first place."Big news of the week, in short form".
"Bay area wows RNC visitors".
Never mind my record
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "In the debate broadcast Sunday with Gov. Crist, Marco Rubio was blunt about the need to cut benefits in the future to keep Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid solvent. Too bad he hasn't been as forthcoming about his own record." "Rubio's selective answers: Clear on Social Security, evasive on his own record".
The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "According to the Innocence Project of Florida, Caravella is the 252nd person in the nation to be exonerated by post-conviction DNA testing, and the 12th in Florida. DNA is a major tool to ensure justice, but unfortunately, there are still some resisters." "Caravella case proves worth of DNA testing".
Big of him
"Haridopolos seeks 'Innocence Commission' funds".
While the innocent languish in prison
"Clock runs out and company goes unpunished for illegal campaign contributions".
"House, Senate to vote on Fla. budget".
"The Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America is heading back to South Florida after drawing more than 24,000 desperate homeowners to a February mortgage-modification marathon in West Palm Beach." "Group that helps prevent foreclosures returning to South Florida in April".
Birther back in the saddle
"U.S. Rep. Posey seeks re-election; submits petitions to qualify for ballot".
"Cover Florida plan lags, even as ranks of the uninsured swell " "Cristcare: Political Triage".
And they live longer too ...
Gerald Ensley: "A Pew Research Center poll found that 40 percent of Republicans described themselves as 'very happy,' compared with only 25 percent of Democrats. I'm pretty sure it's because Republicans don't worry about as much as Democrats."
Democrats think about issues and the common good. Democrats worry about the homeless, the abused, the downtrodden, the environment and world peace.
"Happiness lies on the far right".
Republicans just worry about themselves. They don't worry about the poor, don't worry about the environment, don't worry about those different from themselves. That would be easier.
Being a Republican means everything is black and white: government is bad, private business is good.
Being a Republican means you don't have to study issues or consider new policies. You just oppose whatever the Democrats come up with.
Please no e-mails ... he's just funnin' 'ya.
"Obama to allow oil drilling off Virginia coast".
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "In 2002, Florida voters said they wanted free, high-quality prekindergarten classes to be available to all 4-year-olds in the state, voluntarily, of course, and a constitutional amendment won 59-percent approval, casting in stone this visionary concept. ... Nevertheless, the Florida Legislature this year stood ready to reduce funding for the program, with the Senate cutting nearly 10 percent from the funding, or about $255 per child for the year, and also increasing the teacher-student ratio to one for 12 instead of the preferable one for every 10 tots." "Our Opinion: Investing in tots".