"Crist angered Republican legislative leaders Tuesday by vetoing a bill that would have resurrected their access to potent partisan fundraising machines known as leadership funds."
The elections bill was a priority of GOP lawmakers, who want to use the funds as vessels for special interest money to influence elections and help favored candidates. ..."Gov. Charlie Crist vetoes GOP's leadership funds bill". See also "Crist vetoes fundraising bill backed by GOP leaders" and "Crist Defies GOP Lawmakers, Vetoes Leadership Funds".
Crist, a Republican, said leadership funds are a vestige of Florida's political past that should be forgotten. He also referred to recent scandals at the Republican Party of Florida. ...
The leadership funds bill was born, in part, because of Thrasher's successful race for state Senate last fall. Haridopolos, slated to become Senate president in November, and other Senate Republicans wanted the party to support Thrasher, but they couldn't get Greer to lend party support.
Under state elections law, a party can raise unlimited sums and directly contribute $50,000 to a candidate's campaign. Others -- such as an individual contributor or a lawmaker's personal political committee -- can contribute only $500. Also, a political party can spend unlimited amounts on polling and ads that generally support a candidate.
Under the leadership funds bill, a legislative leader would have access to a party account with the same campaign-finance powers as the party itself. Leadership funds could be set up only by four lawmakers: the minority leader in each chamber and the House speaker and Senate president or their designees.
"A scandal waiting to happen"
The Miami Herald editors: "Whether it's pols going wild with the party credit card or the creation of slush funds for ranking lawmakers, Florida's leaders show a brazen disregard for standards of accountability and transparency."
Democrats abolished leadership funds 20 years ago. Their reemergence in the GOP ranks was a scandal waiting to happen. Gov. Crist, a U.S. Senate candidate, was wise to stop it."The stench from Tallahassee".
As things stand, the state's most powerful special interests already drive the legislative agenda through contributions to obscure political committees controlled by individual lawmakers. Since 2008, they've given about $4.1 million, with about 42 percent going to committees connected to incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos.
These slippery arrangements erode the integrity of the political system and speak volumes about the powerful individuals who stand to gain. They breed mistrust in government and public cynicism.
They call this "reform"?
"Three hotly debated education bills are heading for what appears to be final passage in the Florida House. The chamber begins floor action Wednesday on a proposed state constitutional amendment (SJR 2) that would loosen class size limits and a bill (SB 6) that would make it easier to fire teachers and link their pay to student test scores. Another bill (SB 2126) on the calendar would expand a program that provides private school vouchers to low income students." "Education bills head for Fla. House floor votes".
"Beaven picks up vets support against Mica".
"With both chambers of the Legislature passing their initial budgets last week, the House spent early Tuesday evening paving the way to meet with the Senate in conference to hammer out a final budget." "House Sets Stage to Conference with Senate".
Early fundraising numbers
"First-quarter 2010 fundraising numbers are trickling in, although candidate reports aren't due until next week." "First-quarter fundraising numbers trickle in from some statewide candidates".
After all ... they're just another business ...
... and they hate unions along with the rest of them. The sanctimonious Saint Petersburg Times editorial board gives us this garbage this morning: "The last time the Legislature attempted to modernize [read gut] the retirement system — by establishing an alternative 401(k)-style option — it also made concessions to pension members. The Republican-led Legislature in the past decade has repeatedly lowered employers' contribution rates and enhanced benefits for the politically powerful police and fire unions. Now those same unions*, whose members, along with elected officials, receive the most generous payouts, are helping put a lid on real reform." "Florida's pension clock running out".
To the chamber of commerce types, "reform" equals elimination of defined benefit retirement plans. If the editors shared the details of their wages, perks, deferred income and separation packages with us, the rest of us would perhaps be able to put their preaching about defined benefit plans in better context.
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*No surprise that The Saint Petersburg Times is a nonunion newspaper. No doubt the owners, and their shills on the editorial board, don't want their employees seeing public employees getting decent pensions, and in turn getting all uppity with management about improving their lot in life. Nah ... that couldn't possibly be a motivation for the editorial board slamming unions at every opportunity.
Time to get that yacht you've always wanted
"Tax breaks for yacht buyers, movie producers and back-to-school shoppers were included in a package of incentives Florida lawmakers approved Tuesday in hopes of sparking the state's stagnant economy." "House approves tax breaks for large boat buyers, back-to-school shoppers to spur economy".
"Crist and legislative leaders announced their $1 billion gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe on Tuesday, saying the long-sought agreement would inject needed cash into Florida's budget and free the tribe to create jobs as it expands its gambling empire."
The linchpin of the deal is the plan to authorize -- for five years only -- card games that currently are not legal in Florida: blackjack, baccarat and chemin de fer. The tribe will have exclusive operation of the table games at its three Broward casinos and its casinos in Immokalee and Tampa, but not at its Brighton casino in Okeechobee or its Big Cypress casino in Clewiston."The five-year limit on table games gives the tribe the assurance that the Legislature won't give the parimutuels the card games as the tribe expands the games and makes other investments in its gambling empire."
The tribe will guarantee the state $150 million per year in years one and two of the compact. The tribe will pay a minimum of $233 million in years three and four, and $234 million in year five, or, beginning in year three, pay 10 percent of its net revenue from the exclusive games -- whichever is greater. Legislative staff members expect the payments to exceed the minimum amounts by an estimated $200 million over the five-year life of the table games.
After the tribe operates the card games for five years, the Legislature must either pass a law to allow them to continue or order the games to cease. Lawmakers could also expand casinos to other parts of Florida. In that case, the tribe would be allowed to reduce the amount of money it pays the state."Florida legislative leaders reach Seminole gambling deal". See also "Crist hails gambling deal", "Crist, Seminole Tribe sign gambling deal that seems to offer winning hand for lawmakers" and "Florida reaches $1 billion gambling deal with Seminole tribe".
"Shortly after Gov. Charlie Crist formally announced a Seminole gambling compact that could bring the state at least $1 billion, a major industry advocate said the deal could imperil some dog and horse racing operations." "Seminole Deal a Go, Pari-Mutuels Miffed".
RPOF shores up its fundraising base
"Florida's Medicaid system would be drastically revamped with nearly all patients getting managed care provided by private companies under legislation proposed Tuesday in the Florida House." "AP: Private companies would manage Fla. Medicaid".
"The state has been gradually replacing traditional Medicaid, which compensates doctors and hospitals for each visit, with HMOs and other forms of managed care. The latter model, which pays a pre-negotiated monthly rate, offers predictability and potential cost savings, though critics argue that it encourages skimping on care and provider reimbursements."
The proposal faces opposition from hospitals and doctors complaining the bill would force them into signing contracts with HMOs, making it harder than ever for Florida to retain and recruit medical professionals."House proposes changes for health care".
Nonprofit groups advocating for seniors and people with disabilities also sounded alarms, arguing that the needs of those people are not served well by one-size-fits-all, managed-care approaches.
At the trough
"In Tampa, the Workforce Alliance is being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for spending irregularities, while a senior official was recently fired, and the agency's president resigned after reports of extravagant spending of taxpayer dollars. Add to this, two Pasco people who were arrested in March, and charged with creating fake training programs only to collect grant money from that county's workforce alliance. At the time, law enforcement officials said the contractor's owner also served as chairman of the workforce board. On Tuesday, the overall issue of ethics at workforce boards heated up." "Bill would create ethics standards for workforce boards".
"Continuing his perennial campaign against the Castro regime, Miami Republican Rep. David Rivera wants to prohibit the state from distributing a 'virtual stamp of approval' on goods being exported from Florida to Cuba. ... While the policy impact of Rivera's proposal is a little hazy, the politics seem clear: Rivera is seeking support for his congressional run in a district that is heavily Cuban-American." "Lawmaker: Keep Florida exports stamp off goods sent to Cuba".
"Federal dollars will be needed again this year"
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "Our bottom-of-the-barrel approach to managing Florida's basic responsibilities to its citizens has children's advocates on edge — and rightfully so. It took securing a federal waiver for Florida to snag much-needed stimulus dollars for education last year. Additional federal dollars will be needed again this year, though only the state Senate is acknowledging this reliance. The ugly truth is that Florida is just scraping by on its own resources, yet there are a number of social-service federal-matching programs that the state cannot afford to lose out on." "Federal waiver key to keeping kids out of foster care".
Race to the bottom
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Health-insurance subsidies for retired public employees in Florida add up to big bucks. Eliminating them would save state government $224 million a year. City and county governments that participate in the state plan would save another $111 million. Such moves, no matter how justified, are inevitably described by opponents as balancing the budget on the backs of public employees. In fact, such moves would lift a burden from the backs of taxpayers. Many, if not most of them, don't get benefits as generous as those for public employees." "Florida can't afford to subsidize retirees' health care".
RPOF challenging "century-old ban on public funding of religious organizations"
"Separation of church and state is a celebrated American principal, but Republican lawmakers say Florida has too much of it."
The Florida Senate's Committee on Education PreK-12 approved Tuesday a constitutional amendment that seeks to repeal a century-old ban on public funding of religious organizations. The 6-2 vote fell along party lines."Ban on public funding of religious organizations nears an end".
The bill is being pitched as the "religious freedom'' bill by Republican leaders, but critics say it as a pro-church effort that attempts to abolish Florida's strict divisions between church and government.
If approved by three-fifths of the House and Senate, the bill would be one of many sweeping changes facing voters on the November ballot. It needs 60 percent of the vote to become law.
Sen. Thad Altman, a Brevard County Republican, called the constitutional ban an "anti-American and prejudicial'' act that prohibits citizens from seeking aid from sectarian hospitals, soup kitchen, homeless shelters, work release programs and other social service providers.
Another worst 'worst' listing
The Orlando Sentinel editors: "South Florida all too often finds itself tops on lists of dubious distinction, from dangerous roads to rude customers to the proliferation of beach litter and drowning deaths. Count the region's ranking as the pill mill capital of the nation among one of its worst 'worst' listings — one that demands immediate legislative attention." "Time overdue for toothy restrictions on pill mills".
"The Florida Supreme Court formally reprimanded Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey for a pair of mistakes in her 2008 campaign today and warned judges to watch what they say on new social media like YouTube." "Florida Supreme Court formally reprimands Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey".
What are the slaves to do?
"The fungus was discovered last month near Immokalee and it could take many years for the disease to spread statewide. But when it does, growers will face increased costs and smaller harvests because the disease leads to premature fruit drop." "‘Black Spot’ disease is latest threat to Florida’s citrus industry".
"Today, Palm Beach County commissioners will consider calling a referendum this fall to do just that, by shifting financing of fire-rescue services from property taxes to sales taxes. The proposal unfortunately would assure a continuing stream of revenue for fire departments. Why unfortunately? If passed, the proposal would shield fire-rescue departments from tough budget decisions that often result in reasonable limits on pay and staffing."
As far as the "liberal" Palm Beach Post editorial board is concerned, here's all you need to know:
Firefighter unions, which wield undue influence because they provide money and staff to local political campaigns, got the county-by-county sales-tax option through the Legislature last year."Reject fire-rescue tax shift: Palm Beach County needs budget accountability.".
"A bill in the Florida Legislature would require middle school students to show that they know a few things about government in order to get to high school -- which worries some educators." "Florida legislative leaders reach Seminole gambling deal".
Boyd defends his vote
"Boyd defends health-care vote: 'Give it a chance'".
Not so fast with the drilling
"Florida Democrats have sent letters to President Barack Obama, protesting his plans to expand oil and gas drilling as close as 125 miles off Florida's coast. U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Alcee Hastings and Corrine Brown wrote to Obama Tuesday, asking for a meeting with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and presidential advisor Carol Browner, a Florida native who last week said the 125-mile proposed buffer should keep Florida protected." "Three Florida Democrats oppose offshore drilling".
"Many Social Security experts agree that raising the retirement age is one of the solutions that must be considered if the 75-year-old entitlement program is to avoid insolvency. ... Rubio may have the experts on his side but there are political risks in Florida, just as there were when he disagreed with Crist and said illegal immigrants should not be counted in the 2010 census. That stance could cost the state millions in federal aid to cover services." "Rubio's call to change Social Security puts him in line with experts, if not voters".
"The Florida Supreme Court will hear a legal challenge to a state deal aimed at buying 73,000 acres of farmland from U.S. Sugar Corp. for Everglades restoration projects. The court was set to hear the case Wednesday afternoon that calls for the state to pay $536 million for the land." "Fla. Supreme Court to hear Everglades case". See also "High court to weigh in on Everglades restoration" and "Everglades land deals and Big Sugar battles head to Florida Supreme Court".
Crist holds a press conference
"Crist announced Tuesday that he wants to make reduced-cost drugs available to all Floridians. In a press conference with Douglas Beach, secretary of the state Department for Elder Affairs, Crist said he was lifting the age and income limit for his Florida Discount Drug Card program." "Discount Prescription Drugs for All, Crist Announces".
"Biologists have released a manatee back into waters near the Atlantic coast after the mammal was found suffering from effects of the winter weather." "Manatee released into wild after winter rescue".