"When incoming Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon travels to the capital city for political business, the son of an Air Force pilot prefers to fly himself — and charge the cost to the Republican Party of Florida."
The Winter Park lawmaker, whose party duties include helping Republican legislative candidates win statewide, flies a Cirrus SR-22 single-engine plane he co-owns through a company called GK Aviation. His partners include a small group of businessmen and lawyers from Cannon's former employer, mega-law firm GrayRobinson."Auditors questioned Jim Greer's GOP-paid flights, but not incoming Speaker Dean Cannon's".
Republican Party of Florida donors have paid at least $256,272 since 2006 for his flight privileges.
In many respects, Cannon's arrangement appears similar to one set up by ousted party chair Jim Greer, who used party funds to charter his own plane to fly him and other officials around the state. Last month, the party released a scathing financial audit that accused Greer, as part of a broader review of $7.3 million in credit-card spending under his tenure, of inappropriately using party money on his plane.
But the auditors gave Cannon a pass.
Dems best chance to win the governor's race
"Florida Democrats say this could be their best chance to win the governor's race since their last victory 16 years ago."
Their candidate, Alex Sink, has a long business resume to show off in a year when voters have consistently stripped career politicians of their offices. A united Democratic Party appears to be rowing in the same direction for her, while the Republican nominee, Rick Scott, has nursed wounds inflicted by $25 million in TV ads from his primary opponent."In Florida governor's race, Democrat Alex Sink steers past Washington to reach Tallahassee".
Yet, Sink is no shoo-in. She's the underdog, a string of recent polls show.
"The North Broward Hospital District could face a financial hit of over $80 million a year from lost federal grants and higher costs if it agrees to turn over its operation to a private nonprofit group, a district auditor report says." "North Broward Hospital District faces $80M hit by privatizing".
Another "unusual payment" by Rubio
"one payment stands out: a $1,485.55 check cut on June 12, 2002, to 'Marco Rubio Bank of America Auto Finance Corp.' for 'auto expense,' according to public records."
The unusual payment to the bank again raises one of his biggest liabilities on the campaign trail: his use of political donations to cover personal expenses."Payment to Rubio's car leasing company in 2002 raises questions".
Even as Rubio surged to the front of the Senate race as well as the national party's starring lineup, he has been forced to defend personal expenses billed to his state Republican Party-issued credit card and two political committees he started with his wife.
"It looks bad,'' Ben Wilcox, a board member of Common Cause Florida, a government watchdog group, said of the 2002 campaign check to the bank.
"It looks like he's making payment for his car out of his campaign expense. I certainly haven't heard of this happening before. It seems to be a pattern with him in which he plays fast and loose with the rules and tries to go back and justify it once it's pointed out.''
Rubio frequently billed personal expenses on the Republican Party credit card in 2007 and 2008 when he served as House speaker, from a $10.50 movie ticket to more than $10,000 in hotel rooms for a family reunion. Rubio says he sent checks to American Express to cover all of his personal expenses, but he has refused to release his credit card statements for 2004 and 2005.
"GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott released a proposal last week for revamping Florida's K-12 school system that stresses his desire to "expand school choice" for students and parents."
More choice, he said, means offering a wide range of options, from more magnet and charter schools to expanding the use of virtual schools. But it's his desire to expand another option - school vouchers - that sets him farthest from his opponent, Alex Sink."Vouchers separate Scott and Sink".
Scott wants, in particular, to expand an existing program funded with corporate income tax credits, which allows low-income students to attend private school. Sink does not.
Deadline is Monday, Oct. 4
"Want to vote in November? Registration deadline is Monday, Oct. 4". See also "Groups work to sign up new voters before Monday deadline".
Revolving door blues
"As critical health reform deadlines loom, the former secretary of Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration, Medicaid expert Tom Arnold, has left government to join one of Tallahassee's top lobbying firms, Southern Strategies." "Loophole allows ex-director to lobby health agency".
"It's a high-stakes issue that could affect every public school in the state. But unlike past controversial proposals, neither supporters nor opponents of Amendment 8 have done much to rally popular opinion to their cause." "Class-size amendment: Both sides low-key on hot issue".
"Amendment 1 on the Nov. 2 ballot would repeal a state constitutional provision that requires public financing of campaigns for governor, chief financial officer, attorney general and agriculture commissioner for candidates who agree to spending limits. Supporters of Amendment 1 argue public campaign funding is a welfare system for candidates and the money would be better spent on the state's needs. Opponents say getting rid of the system would give wealthier candidates an unfair advantage." "Fla. amendment would repeal public campaign funds".
Charlie plays softball
"Crist throws lunch for West Tampa softball champs".
"Social Security a pivotal issue"
"With one out of six Floridians receiving Social Security, it is no surprise that the federal entitlement program has become a pivotal issue in this fall's U.S. Senate race." "Social Security in the race for U.S. Senate".
"More important things to do"
The Sarasota Herald Tribune editors: "Bondi also makes it clear that she plans to pursue the current attorney general's lawsuit against the new federal health-care law -- a suit that is both a politicized and an irresponsible waste of state resources."
With one of every five Floridians lacking health insurance and the state ranked 49th in the nation in the percentage of uninsured children, surely the attorney general would have more important things to do."Gelber for attorney general".
"State Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, the Republican nominee for Florida’s 25th Congressional District, is counting on his conservative message and ideology to carry him to victory in November." "CD 25 Race Tight, Significant, Increasingly Bitter".
Wingers think Florida is doin' great
"Florida earned the highest combined grade on a new national education report card, and researchers said reform-minded Republican leaders deserve some of the credit. The [right wing*] American Legislative Exchange Council ranked Florida first among 50 states for education reform, citing rising proficiency standards, friendly charter school laws and wide online learning opportunities." "Florida Ranks No. 1 in U.S. School Study".
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*"Founded in the early 1970s to promote right-wing policies at the state level, the American Legislative Exchange Council's focus has shifted to favor the promotion of state legislation and regulation that benefits its corporate sponsors. A fact that should come as no surprise given its funding by right-wing foundations and corporate membership fees ranging from $5000 to $50,000. The council boasts a large clearinghouse of research, model bills, and legislative strategies to promote its agenda." "American Legislative Exchange Council". More here.
Foreclosure law firm avoids subpoena
"A Palm Beach County judge dealt a blow Monday to Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum’s investigation of foreclosure law firm Shapiro & Fishman." "Judge throws out McCollum's subpoena on foreclosure firm".
"As if grasping a lifeline"
"The billions in federal stimulus money that have been pumped into Florida offer some people a measure of comfort."
As reported this week by Miami Herald staff writer Doug Hanks, the state has received some $9 billion so far, with more to come in the next couple of years."What happens when stimulus funds are gone?".
So governments and organizations throughout Florida, as if grasping a lifeline, are reaching for the money and breathing a sigh of relief.