RPOF "membership had its privileges"
"For Florida House leaders, membership had its privileges: a Republican Party American Express card to charge jets to Manhattan and Disney World, chic hotels and five-star restaurants."
Flashing the party card opened limousine doors, bought gifts at Harrods in London, Toys R Us or Best Buy. It provided a seemingly bottomless coffee cup at Starbucks."Though some of the records have been reported, the credit-card statements of the three party leaders viewed together offer a window into the world of public officials conducting private, partisan business."
In all, about $458,000 in AmEx charges like these were racked up by former House Speaker Marco Rubio, his now-indicted successor, Ray Sansom, and the man set to lead the chamber in November, Dean Cannon, according to a Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times computer analysis of Republican Party of Florida credit card statements for a nearly two years ending in 2009.
The part-time lawmakers paid for little of it. Republican Party of Florida donors -- mostly corporate interest seeking favorable legislation from lawmakers -- picked up most of it.
The Republican Party has refused to release the billing statements, but the paperwork has leaked out amid criminal investigations connected to party donors and a civil lawsuit involving former party Chairman Jim Greer."Three leaders ran up $458,000 on Florida GOP credit cards". Yesterday: "Report: State GOP spent lavishly on staffer's card" and "Fla. Republican Party staffer racks up $1.3M on AmEx card".
"Who knew one-party rule was so fun?"
Howard Troxler: "This is the big enchilada, this is the revolution. The Republicans who run Florida's Legislature have won the greatest battle in their history — unless their own Republican governor takes it away from them. Therein lies a drama of its own."
In a climactic vote held between midnight and dawn Friday, the Legislature passed a sweeping reform of public education in this state, done on the fly.Troxler points out that Crist just might veto it. After all,
Two birds were killed with one stone: the end of tenure for Florida public schoolteachers, and a requirement that teacher pay be linked to student "progress," to be measured by Measures To Be Cooked Up Later.
Two birds? No, three — for no matter how much they denied it, this was the ultimate Republican victory over a state teachers union that has been unrelentingly Democratic, if not the alter-ego of the Florida Democratic Party.
It also was the triumph of Jebism, a process started by the former governor Bush a decade ago with his foray into standardized tests and school vouchers. Like Caesar's ghost, he never went away. He is the alt-governor, the uber-gubernator, presiding from afar.
And yet there is one tiny detail left before the victory is sealed. All eyes turn now to ...
Is it that crazy to run against the Legislature, which fiddles this year with ideological wackiness? Which, in the face of 12 percent unemployment, passes tax breaks for yachts? Which blithely ignores the indictment of its own House speaker and a blistering grand jury report crying out for change? ...Please read the entire column here: "Will Crist veto the teacher bill?".
Here was one trouble sign: Even 11 Republican members of the House, some of them in their own election battles, broke ranks and voted against the teacher bill. Here was another: The Republican leadership said there could be absolutely no amendments to the bill, nosiree — the thing was locked down and rammed through, sort of like … heck, I dunno, the health care bill in Congress.
So we have teachers vs. the Legislature, teacher unions vs. Republicans, Crist vs. the Legislature; Crist vs. Rubio, Crist vs. Bush, the executive vs. the legislative, dissenting Republicans vs. the party leadership, with the whole thing in play, hanging there, the state holding its breath while the governor makes up his mind. Who knew one-party rule was so fun?
As reported yesterday, the The Palm Beach Post editorial board argues that "Crist should veto teacher tenure bill"; and the The Saint Petersburg Times editors write that "Crist should veto teacher tenure bill". Related: "Jeb wields clout without accountability" ("Jeb Bush is advancing his conservative agenda in the Legislature and influencing the Senate race without coming out of the shadows.")
Steve Bousquet: "Crist came to the Villages, a Republican stronghold, to seek votes in his uphill campaign against his GOP primary rival, Marco Rubio, a supporter of the education bill. Rubio will be there Tuesday as the guest of Fox talk-show host Sean Hannity. For more than an hour, one person after another pleaded with Crist to veto the teacher tenure and pay-for-performance bill (SB 6) now sitting on his desk in Tallahassee." "At campaign stops, Crist hears pleas to veto teacher tenure bill". See also "Crist greeted by protesters at Tavares marina event". More: "Could Charlie Crist announce veto in Jeb Bush’s backyard?".
"Rarely has so much perfume been sprayed to mask so much stench"
Randy Schultz: "Last week, after the Florida House had passed the wretched teacher merit pay bill, Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Boca Raton, called it 'transformational,' adding, 'For Florida to be economically and educationally competitive in the 21st century, then the status quo is unacceptable.'"
The comment sounded like a talking point because it was. Rep. Hasner's job is to issue such infomercials throughout the session. In this case, he was right that the merit pay plan is "transformational," but not in the way he intended. The vote transformed the Legislature into a place where party — in this case, the most politically rigid segment of the Republican Party — matters more than Florida."Razzie for bad 'Transformers'".
For education in Florida, this legislation will help about as much as toxic waste helps property values. It was not designed by or with teachers. It was designed by ideologues who believe in testing, not teaching. It was sponsored by a state senator, John Thrasher, who's also chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and said upon taking that office in February: "Our enemy is the liberal media. And the Democrats. And that is where we will begin to refocus our efforts." ...
Rarely in Tallahassee, however, has so much perfume been sprayed to mask so much stench as with the merit pay bill. A Legislature that has lost all sense of accountability is claiming credit for holding teachers accountable. The transformation that Florida needs did not come last week.
More from Steve Otto: "Watching the Florida Legislature recently has been a little like going to the state fair and standing at the shooting booth. The only difference is that instead of a line of ducks going by and getting plunked, it is a row of teachers, one after another, getting pinged by politicians who think they can micromanage a system by targeting the people who make it work." "Tallahassee needs a bit of schooling".
Michael Mayo: "I could recite the laundry list of concerns — the unknown costs, the expansion of standardized testing to insane new levels, the murky language about undefined 'learning gains' as the basis for teacher raises and job security, the insulting devaluation of advanced degrees, the siphoning of education dollars from classrooms to testing companies — but I'm sure you're being bombarded with them already. Instead, I want to tell you a few stories about the best teachers I ever had." "Just say no to teacher merit-pay plan".
Scott Maxwell gives us "some of the highlights from the survey conducted by the Nielsen Co. for Leadership Florida" (read: the delightful folks at the Chamber of Commerce):
Asked whether Florida is better or worse off than it was five years ago, nearly three times as many people said worse (38 vs. 14 percent). ...And if you had any doubt the poll was funded by the business hacks at the Chamber, get this:
Less than 30 percent think government officials are doing a good job. It was slightly better for business and nonprofit leaders. But any wannabe pols should try incorporating the word "integrity" into their campaign slogans. That's the No. 1 quality people crave. (Even better, you could try demonstrating integrity … though history shows it's certainly not required to thrive in Florida politics. It can actually be a hurdle.) ...
Taxes aren't our beef. Despite what the talk-radio blabbermouths claim, most Floridians aren't mad about high taxes. In fact, more than half of respondents said they think the amount of taxes they pay is either "about right" or — get this — "too low." That jells with reality in a state that lags the nation in tax burden. In fact, in a list of things that irritate Floridians, taxes are way down the list — behind the weather.
Write those welfare checks! Not to actual people — but to corporations. Leadership Florida asked residents if they favored "corporate welfare." And folks said: You bet! by a margin of more than 2-1. Again, the economy seems to be dominating not just Floridians' frontal lobes, but temporal lobes, occipital lobes, maybe even the ear lobes as well."Floridians say state declining, but plan to stay".
The other candidate, Meek
"Meek's everyman-themed campaign to belong to the most exclusive political club in America took him last week from the Orlando sports bar to a Tallahassee food bank to a Mulberry phosphate plant. While the media obsesses over the nationally charged Republican primary between Gov. Charlie Crist and former House Speaker Marco Rubio, the leading Democratic contender for Florida's open Senate seat has been trudging across the state longer than any other major candidate."
The GOP bloodletting prompted one Capitol Hill newspaper to change the race's description from "lean Republican'' to "tossup.'' Still, Meek is expected to be overshadowed until after the Aug. 24 primary, leaving his campaign just 10 weeks to blanket the nation's fourth largest state."Kendrick Meek: the 'regular guy' in the race for U.S. Senate".
Charlie ventures into teabag country
"Charlie Crist brings U.S. Senate campaign to The Villages, Tavares".
"One Florida" flop
"Ten years after Florida banned affirmative-action admissions, minority enrollment in the State University System hasn't kept pace with the number of minorities graduating from high school, an Orlando Sentinel analysis has found." "10 years in, 'One Florida' posts mixed results for minorities at universities".
Might McCollum get some scrutiny in RPOFer scandal?
Adam C. Smith: Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum is up to his neck in "the ongoing Florida GOP scandal and lawsuit over secret contracts, lavish spending and the ouster of former chairman Jim Greer ... . Among those pushing for reform and transparency in the state GOP, Attorney General McCollum appears to be close to the back row:"
• McCollum was among the last party leaders to publicly call for Greer's resignation amid allegations of financial mismanagement."Florida GOP scandal could hurt Attorney General Bill McCollum's gubernatorial campaign".
• Florida's top cop had long dismissed any need for a criminal investigation after revelations chairman Greer and executive director Delmar Johnson had executed a secret, lucrative contract for Johnson. McCollum had known about the contract for weeks, but said it was best handled internally after consulting another state party attorney. He changed his mind as the controversy failed to quiet down.
• McCollum also was aware of secret negotiations for a severance package for Greer, and Greer said McCollum specifically signed off on it.
1.2 million households "have been lost to the recession as job cuts and foreclosures forced families to move in together or kept adult children at home. The numbers, revealed in a Mortgage Bankers Association report last week, were gathered in a study of 80 metropolitan areas nationwide, including South Florida, between 2005 and 2008." "Foreclosures forcing Floridians to pile in with parents, relatives".
"A seemingly innocuous bill dealing with life insurance policies suddenly morphed into a measure expanding Attorney General Bill McCollum's lawsuit challenging the new federal health-care law in a contentious House meeting ... Republican House members filed a series of last-minute amendments to give McCollum a measure that would allow any of the state's 19 million residents to join the lawsuit, leaving Democratic members of the House General Government Policy Council rattled." "Rider tacked on life insurance bill to give McCollum more ammo in suit against health-care law".
Palm Beach Post editors: "Police officers who kill in the line of duty go on administrative leave during the investigation. Similarly, the state should keep doctors suspected of negligently causing patient deaths from practicing." "Aim at doctors, not just pills: State should pull licenses after suspicious deaths.".
Crist says he would "understand" teacher sickout
"Miami-Dade schools officials are preparing for widespread teacher absences on Monday, a district spokesman said. Late Friday, rumors swirled that many teachers would not attend school to protest proposed legislation on teacher pay and tenure."
"Wow, wow, that's incredible,'' said Gov. Charlie Crist upon hearing of the plan."Miami-Dade schools brace for teacher 'sickout'".
"If that happens Monday, I can certainly understand it,'' he added. "The vast majority of what I've heard today is strongly adverse to the bill. It's been pretty overwhelming.''
The controversial bill, which flew through the state Senate last month and cleared the House on Friday, is now in Crist's hands. He has until next Friday to sign it into law or veto it.
"The special election is Tuesday, and Democratic congressional candidate Ted Deutch holds a commanding advantage in contributions, taking in more than $1.5 million since launching his campaign last fall." "Deutch crushing opponents in financial race".
"And no one seems to care"
"Politics permeated the air in the run-up to the Republican special election primary for the District 4 state House seat. There was big money and loud signs, forums and push polls. Candidates appeared at homes and waved from street corners. There were mailings, radio ads and television commercials. The special general election to decide who will serve District 4 for the rest of this legislative session is Tuesday. And no one seems to care." "Gaetz-Fernald election sparks little interest".
"A sigh of relief could be heard from schools, county buildings, firehouses and sheriff's stations across Florida recently when a proposed bill that would have drastically altered pensions under the Florida Retirement System died in the Legislature." "Pensions dodge bullet, remain under gun".
Florida's "teachers aren't the only ones monitoring the state's political leaders."
Florida is at the center of a budding national movement to pay teachers for how much their students learn, and to fire them if students don't learn enough."Nation watches Florida push for merit pay".
One reason the action in Tallahassee is getting so much attention: No one really knows whether merit pay works, and few states have gone as far and as fast as Florida did Thursday night and early Friday in an emotionally charged marathon House session. One legislator opposed to the measure called it "Frankenstein's monster."
"The state is getting ahead of itself. The science isn't there. The data isn't there," said Jack Jennings, president of the Center for Education Policy, a nonprofit organization in Washington that researches and tracks educational issues nationwide.
Jane Healy has had an epiphany: "Whatever happened to the quaint idea that it's the legislators who are supposed to go to Tallahassee to represent our interests? More and more, it seems it's the lobbyists. Here are two questions about that:"
Question No. 1: Are taxpayers getting scammed once again?"Local politicians again soak taxpayers".
If private companies want to pay a lobbyist to go to Tallahassee to represent their interests, then fine, go right ahead.
But that doesn't mean we should also be paying our hard-earned tax dollars for lobbyists. Aren't we already paying the salaries and expenses of legislators to represent us on important matters? Double-billing, anyone? ...
Question No. 2: Isn't there a better way?
Yes there is: Ditch the lobbyists and have legislative delegations set the local priorities. They can make those decisions before each session, when they hear the needs of all the different governments. Surely that concentrated legislative firepower would work better than having government lobbyists competing for the same money, as they do now. It's not as if they are all that successful anyway.
Myriam Marquez: "Now Emilio and Gloria Estefan want to share the story of Cuba's 51-year dictatorship with President Barack Obama, put human rights at the top, give the island's 11 million people hope."
The Republicans who marched with the Estefans in solidarity with the Ladies in White two weeks ago in Miami read about the couple hosting an eye-popping $30,400-per-couple fundraiser and feel used. The nation's political divisions -- the tea partyers who call Obama a communist, the birthers who insist he was born in Kenya -- become magnified in older exiles' hearts into irreconcilable differences with the Democrats."Estefans want to get Obama's ear on Cuba".
Will Citizens go bankrupt?
Mike Thomas writes that if Florida is hit hard during hurricane season,
this is what will happen: A number of small, startup insurance companies that now dominate Florida's market will fail. The state-owned Citizens Property Insurance company and state-owned hurricane catastrophe fund will go bankrupt."Expect insurance chaos if hurricane hits hard".
You may or may not get enough money to fix your damaged house in what may or may not be a reasonable amount of time.
Confronted with massive damages and no money, Florida will go running to the bond market. The [right-wing] fiscal watchdog group, Florida TaxWatch, says paying off all the debt would cost about $4 billion a year for the next 30 years. The money will come from huge tax assessments on insurance policies — primarily home and auto.
Each insured household will have to cough up about $700 per year. The economic drain will cost the state about 70,000 jobs. But this is a very conservative calculation.
A teabagger would ask ...
... where in the Constitution does it give the gov'ment the power to stop me from dumping raw sewage into a stream? See "SENTINEL SPECIAL REPORT Florida's natural springs in crisis: Which ones are cleanest, most polluted?". Related from the The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Tanks for nothing" ("Florida needs an answer to its festering septic tank problem.")
RPOFers runnin' gov'ment like a bidness
The Miami Herald editorial board: "The state should be rewarding Miami-Dade for a program that has become a national model. That's not how Tallahassee works, though."
The Legislature actually penalizes local taxpayers because it requires counties to pay the state for each bed at state-run juvenile detention centers in their community -- even when they're empty. Miami-Dade has cut the detention population by two-thirds, yet it still pays the state $10 million in part for often empty beds. Talk about wasteful."Stop punishing money-saving success".
That's why Miami-Dade wants to take over running the detention center. The Legislature, which long has talked about the importance of local decision-making, should oblige. A pilot program would be ideal. What's the hang up?