"Crist signed a $70.2 billion budget Friday, but only after he wiped out hundreds of millions of dollars in pet projects of some key lawmakers." "Crist takes knife to budget". See also "Crist signs $70 billion Florida budget, vetoes $371 million". More: "Crist Takes Budget Ax to Republican Priorities".
"Gov. Charlie Crist announced Friday afternoon that he has vetoed $371 million from the state budget."
The biggest cut: A $160 million raid on the state Department of Transportation trust fund. The money was tied to K-12 spending in an effort to block Crist from making a veto or risk cutting education spending."Crist vetoes millions from state budget".
Crist did it anyway, all but daring the Republican-led Legislature or whomever else to sue him in order to cut money from road projects -- the only projects that conservatives across the board said represented true "stimulus'' in the stimulus package that they maligned before gobbling up all that extra federal cash.
"We should not have to chose between jobs for Floridians or funding for our children's education,'' Crist said in his veto statement.
Cretul has a fit:
A Republican-turned-nonpartisan governor, Crist has been sharply at odds with the Legislature, which is run by his former party. Friday's vetoes appear likely to increase tensions even more."Crist axes $372 million from state budget". See also "Crist vetoes USF Lakeland pharmacy school, many South Florida projects", "FSU, FAMU 'treated extremely well' in $70B state budget", "Crist cuts millions in S. Fla. projects" and "Crist vetoes $45 million in appropriations to USF".
House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, blasted Crist for "questionable vetoes" and said the House would pursue legal action against the governor. The dispute: whether the governor had the authority to veto the Legislature's decision to divert $160 million in roads money to public-schools funding. Crist's Friday veto decoupled the road money from schools, essentially ignoring the Legislature's directive.
"This apparent abuse of power is another example of the governor once again exceeding his legal authority," Cretul said in a statement, threatening legal action.
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "The howls of protests already are starting, but Gov. Charlie Crist took a reasonable whack at legislative spending Friday as he signed into law a $70 billion state budget for 2010-11 and vetoed more than $371 million in projects. He punished some of his harshest Republican critics in the process, but the governor’s independent approach now that he is free of any political party affiliation remains refreshing." "Crist's budget ax buys time".
RPOFers, teabaggers, country clubbers and most newspaper editors in a dither
"Crist refused to slash interest earnings on state-worker pensions in the Deferred Retirement Option Program, saying lawmakers unfairly put the change in the budget." "Crist refuses to cut DROP for state workers".
"Faster than you can say multimillionaire"
"Pity Bill McCollum. Only weeks ago, he was skating effortlessly to the Republican gubernatorial nomination and comfortably leading Democrat Alex Sink in the polls. Then, faster than you can say multimillionaire, the attorney general's aura of inevitability was shattered by a political neophyte who started spending money like Florida has never seen." "In six weeks, Rick Scott pours nearly $11 million into Florida governor's race".
Plume! Baby Plume!
"University of South Florida researchers have discovered a huge plume of subsurface oil they say is heading from the Deepwater Horizon spill toward an underwater canyon whose currents would ferry it straight to Florida's West Coast. The plume - 22 miles long and more than 6 miles wide - is invisible, and can only be detected with special equipment and chemical tests." "Scientists: subsurface oil from Gulf gusher may be heading toward Fla. coast".
RPOFers lawyerin' up
"In recent weeks, prominent legislators have hired criminal defense lawyers, while high-ranking and low-ranking GOP staffers have been summoned to grand juries meeting across the state. Among them: Crist's former top money-raiser, Meredith O'Rourke; former state GOP executive director Jim Rimes; and indicted ex-House Speaker Ray Sansom's former fundraising aide, Melanie Phister, who at age 25 charged nearly $1.3 million on her state party credit card."
Check out this cast of characters - "Amid the most tumultuous and unpredictable election year Florida has seen in decades, the names of at least a dozen political figures have popped up in five major federal investigations probing the pay-to-play culture of corruption in Florida:"
• Alan Mendelsohn, 52, a Fort Lauderdale eye doctor and GOP campaign fundraiser, is indicted on federal fraud and influence-peddling charges.Much more here: "Politics at heart of criminal investigations swirling across Florida".
• Scott Rothstein, 47, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer and campaign donor at the center of a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme, pleaded guilty in January to multiple federal charges of racketeering, money laundering and fraud.
• Sansom, 47, charged with grand theft in state court for secretly putting $6 million in the budget, is being looked at by federal officials in North Florida for his use of a GOP credit card and his role in creating a $113 million private prison.
• Jim Greer, 47, former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, is under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and a statewide grand jury for a secret contract benefitting a corporation Greer created with then-RPOF executive director Delmar Johnson. Greer is also under investigation by federal officials scrutinizing his use of Republican Party credit cards.
• FBI and IRS agents are fanning out across Florida in an escalating investigation of the way party officials and legislators used American Express cards for private purchases.
Perhaps what pases fsor the Dem party brain trust can find something to work with here.
Beaven goes after oil lapdog Mica
"The Gulf of Mexico oil spill may be ultimately disastrous for Florida beaches, but the oil-well blowout could be a boon for long-shot congressional candidate Heather Beaven, a Democrat taking on nine-term U.S. Rep. John Mica, R- Winter Park."
Since the spill, Beaven repeatedly has slammed Mica for his longstanding support of offshore oil rigs and said it was "outrageous" that a powerful legislator with ties to the oil industry could refer to the mess, as he did during a recent congressional hearing, as the "Obama oil spill.""Beaven hopes oil spill will tar Mica".
"Senate candidates Charlie Crist, Kendrick Meek and Marco Rubio took unique stances on the current U.S. policy banning openly gay people from serving in the military." "Rivals spar over military gay ban".
Stewards of the earth?
"Wildlife officials have euthanized a 590-pound bear after it was found near a central Florida home. ... The bear was euthanized because it had been lounging on a sidewalk and prowling around the same neighborhood for a while." "".
"Become a movie star"
"Democratic congressional candidate Rudolph 'Rudy' Moise has come up with a novel strategy to stand out in a crowded field of nine campaign rivals: Become a movie star.
Moise is the executive producer -- he said he carried most of the cost of the film with $2.3 million of his own money -- and thus had the inside track to be able to co-star with the lovely Vivica A. Fox. It's scheduled to open only in Miami in September."Candidate Moise's movie star chops make rich political theater".
For an amateur, Moise takes on a role that would challenge Sir Anthony Hopkins. He plays Dr. Richard Lazard, the chief suspect when his wife disappears. According to the trailer, the good doctor suffers from "a severe, delusional, paranormal psychosis. In other words, he conjures up images in his mind and then lives them out in his own reality.''
Perfect training for a member of Congress.
"When a developer makes an offer ..."
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "When a developer makes an offer that, if accepted, would violate the word of elected officials and the will of voters, the developer has to show that the offer would serve a greater public purpose. The idea is to present something that sounds so beneficial that those elected officials can't refuse, even if it breaks a promise sealed with the public's money." "Keep this promise to public: Voters paid to preserve farms, not subdivisions.".
"Feeling stepped on"
Jac Wilder VerSteeg: "Teachers feeling stepped on: Merit pay needs money for the merit.".
How left will Crist go?
"Gov. Charlie Crist (I-FL) was, until a month ago, a moderate Republican struggling to appeal to an ultra-conservative base. But now that Crist has unburdened himself from his former party affiliation and become an independent in his run for Senate, he's been moving decisively leftward. The question is, how left will he go?" "How Left Can Charlie Crist Go In His Bid For A Senate Seat?".
The Sun Sentinel editorial board: "Tourism still key to South Florida economic engine".
McCollum worried about Scott, secretive political committee steps in
"A series of television ads running on stations throughout Florida suggest Attorney General Bill McCollum, the Republican frontrunner for governor, may be getting worried about a primary challenge from Rick Scott. The ads were bought by a secretive political committee that won't reveal its sources of funding, but that has ties to McCollum."
This from our Attorney General:
The McCollum campaign denies any connection to the group, called Alliance for America's Future."Ads hint McCollum is worried about rival".
But they were produced by political advertising consultant Chris Mottola, and the time was bought by McLaughlin and Associates - both are strategists who work for McCollum's campaign and have worked for him in past races.
In 2009, McCollum took criticism for giving Mottola a no-bid contract for $2.5 million in public money for series of public service ads on cybercrime and Internet predators. The ads prominently featured McCollum, and critics said they looked more like campaign ads than public service ads.
Through a spokesman, McCollum declined to say that the group should reveal its donors or pull its ads. He "believes every organization engaging on issues or in campaigns must follow the law," said spokeswoman Kristy Campbell.
Aaron Deslatte: "Last week, a stealthy political group out of Virginia called the Alliance for America's Future, with ties to former Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter, bought more than $1 million in TV air time to combat the $8 million, self-financed ad campaign put up by Rick Scott, McCollum's primary rival." "Crist helps McCollum's campaign".
Speaking of "shadowy groups"
"Shadowy groups that attack first and disclose their big-money donors after an election won't be able to be so secretive in Florida now that Gov. Charlie Crist signed a law Friday that broadens state regulation of campaign committees."
Under the new law, nearly every group that spends more than $5,000 to communicate a message about a state candidate must register with the state as an Electioneering Communication Organization, which would then have to detail its donors and expenses."New campaign law makes Florida tougher for shadow donors".
The regulations arrive just in time for the 2010 campaign season -- and for the political candidates of both parties who often live in fear of being targeted by groups that can raise and spend unlimited sums. Often, the groups disguise their acerbic intentions with mom-and-apple-pie names.
Why is this man laughing?
"Can the man who ran the company that committed the biggest Medicare fraud in history get elected governor in a state full of retirees?"
Rick Scott, a mega-millionaire from Naples, political newcomer and former head of the once-giant HCA hospital chain, intends to find out.A delightful chap, this Scott fellow:
Since entering the race late,in April, Scott has poured some $8 million into television advertising that vaulted him from political unknown to a significant challenger in the Republican primary for governor.
He's threatening frontrunner Attorney General Bill McCollum, who has the backing of most of the GOP establishment but hasn't generated much excitement. The winner likely will face Democratic leader Alex Sink this fall.
Scott moved to Florida in 2003, buying an $11.5 million beachfront home in Naples.And then there's this:
Scott began his foray into politics last year, when he founded Conservatives for Patients' Rights, which spent about $10 million, including $5 million of his own, running ads opposing a public health care program in any national health care reform.
The organization used the same public relations firm that masterminded the widely condemned "Swiftboat Veterans for Truth" campaign attacking John Kerry in 2004, and its ads were similarly criticized as distorted or inaccurate by independent research organizations including Factcheck.org.
Scott denied the ads were inaccurate, and said the firm has also worked for his campaign.
In the early 1990s, the Clinton administration began a crackdown on Medicare and Medicaid fraud. It included whistleblower lawsuits filed against Scott's company, some dealing with Columbia hospitals before the merger."Rick Scott criticized for heading company that committed fraud".
By 2003, the company had pleaded guilty to various criminal charges that it purposely overbilled and cheated Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare, the military health care program. It paid $1.7 billion in fines and settlements, the largest such case in U.S. history.
Investigators said HCA hospitals shifted costs including salaries and administrative expenses from other areas onto Medicaid and Medicare treatments to inflate its billings; paid kickbacks to doctors for patient referrals; billed the government for costs including sports tickets, meals and country club dues, and billed for treatments and drugs that weren't covered.
Scott was forced out as CEO in 1997, but got a $10 million severance package. He was never charged with a crime or even interviewed in the investigation, and denies the chain committed any criminal acts that he was aware of.
$175 million "jobs" bill
"Crist on Friday signed into law a $175 million jobs bill the Senate backer of which said will help the state more quickly recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Included among a flurry of bills signed into law on the eve of the Memorial Day Weekend, Crist approved SB 1752, which among other provisions provides tax incentives for qualified businesses and tax breaks for other business related activities in an effort to jump start an economy that now sees unemployment at more than 12 percent." "Crist Signs 'Jobs For Florida' Bill".
Greene snags Farmer
"Miami financier Bob Farmer, who has served as campaign treasurer for Bill Clinton and John Kerry's presidential runs, announced he is endorsing Greene over primary rival U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, also of Miami." "Financier Backs Millionaire U.S. Senate Candidate Jeff Greene".
Runnin' govment like a bidness
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Florida legislators this year didn't pursue proposals to reform Medicaid, the federal-state health-care program for the poor and disabled. The cost of the program is nearing $19 billion a year, more than a quarter of the state budget, and it's rising fast. ... a recent state audit found that Medicaid may have wasted millions on overpayments in recent years based on inaccurate rates and unsubstantiated claims." "Medicaid mess".
RPOF fails and has beens
Rep. Mike Horner, R-Kissimmee is getting desperate, rolling out RPOF fails and has beens. Aaron Deslatte:
Earlier this month, rolled out a video of endorsements from prominent Florida politicos like Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, and Attorney General McCollum, and we thought to ourselves:"Horner turns to Jeb".
What, no Jeb Bush?
Well, last week Horner called upon the GOP's big enchilada himself.
"I am proud to endorse Mike Horner," Bush said in a statement. "He is not afraid to be bold and innovative in finding solutions to Florida's greatest challenges."
What's bringing on the love? Thomas Chalifoux Jr.
The wealthy Osceola developer is running against Horner in the GOP primary for his House District 79 seat. Chalifoux vowed to make a comeback this year after a judge barred him from the 2008 GOP primary, ruling he had violated the state's resign-to-run law by missing the deadline for filing a letter resigning from his school board seat.
"Tampa General Hospital figured prominently in the investigation of Rick Scott's HCA hospital chain in the 1990s because of the company's attempts to buy and privatize the then-public hospital." "Privatizing TGH was part of investigation into Scott's HCA chain".