"When Gov.-elect Rick Scott stood in a church this week and dropped a policy bomb on the education establishment -- a plan to essentially give vouchers to any family that wants one -- 900 voucher kids in the audience cheered. But from South Florida to Tallahassee, apocalyptic thoughts began raining on traditional public education advocates."
Vouchers for everybody?"When Scott spoke Thursday of giving all students the same opportunities as voucher students, he didn't mention "
Not even former Gov. Jeb Bush went there.
"Awful idea,'' said Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the state teachers union.
Rick Scott's appearance at the St. Petersburg voucher event -- his first school-related event since his election Nov. 2 -- is the latest signal that Florida schools are in for a wild ride that may make the aggressive reforms of the Bush years look tame.
Just last week, Scott named an 18-member education transition team stocked with those who believe even more accountability and school choice is the antidote for ailing schools. The only teacher on board? From the online Florida Virtual School.
Meanwhile, Scott put former Washington, D.C., schools chief Michelle Rhee -- perhaps the most polarizing education figure in America -- in charge of the group, and did nothing to dispel rumors she might be Florida's education commissioner.
"educational savings accounts'' by name. But that's the proposal being crafted by Bush's education foundation to fit with Scott's vision of allowing state education dollars to follow all students to the schools their parents choose."Scott shaking up halls of academia with plan". Related: "Scott, Superman and what’s next for Florida’s schools".
The state's current voucher programs, by contrast, are limited to students who are low-income or disabled.
More from the teacher-hating front: "GOP Lawmakers Gain Feisty Anti-Tenure Ally" ("Mother of 'voted-out' son says teacher unions enable deficient instructors")
RPOFers runnin' Florida like a bidness
"If Congress approves a deal to reauthorize lapsed unemployment benefits, Texas officials say they will start making payments within a week. The New York Department of Labor says it will take a few days. But the agency administering jobless benefits in Florida can't provide an estimate." "Florida's jobless face longer waits for aid than in other states".
The best they can do?
"After campaigning as an outsider, Gov.-elect Rick Scott is ready to turn insider again Friday, sitting down for 15-minute, closed-door interviews with contenders vying to become the next Florida Republican Party chairman."
In the race are RPOF vice chair Deborah Cox-Roush of Hillsborough County, Sarasota County Chairman Joe Gruters, Palm Beach County Chairman Sid Dinerstein, Pinellas County State Committeeman Tony DiMatteo and Jefferson County State Committeeman Dave Bitner, a former state legislator."Rick Scott to interview candidates for Florida GOP chief". See also "Scott to Hold Sit-Downs With GOP Contenders" and "Scott interviews candidates for chair of RPOF".
Never mind them Sunshine Lawrs
"Gov.-elect Rick Scott is so committed to finding outsiders to staff his administration, he's reaching into his own pocket for more than $125,000 to pay the salaries and expenses of a New York head-hunting firm to recruit talent".
The agreement signed by Scott and the Gerson Group, however, demands that any confidential documents the recruiters obtain in the process be kept strictly confidential, even though state law requires that transition documents be public record. ..."Rick Scott hires New York headhunters to fill state jobs".
Although the transition team is required to make all documents public, the agreement also says that D'Elia and Hale will not reveal any confidential information they obtain, and that all confidential information is the "exclusive property of the transition team."
The agreement does not define "confidential information" and Pat Gleason, Gov. Charlie Crist's public records attorney, said it appears that the language is standard for recruiting private businesses. Both parties must keep confidential Social Security and similar documents out of the public record, she said, but anything beyond that would not be consistent with the state open records laws.
Who cares about facts? State employees in wingnut crosshairs
Aaron Deslatte notes that "which found Florida in 2009 had the lowest per-capita number of state workers and payroll expenditures in the nation ... Last year, on average, state governments had 216 workers for every 10,000 people. Florida had 117 workers. And the national payroll cost of $72-a-year per-resident was nearly double the $38 per-resident Florida paid."
And what do our elected geniuses make of these discomfiting facts?
Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, was unswayed: "I think that's just representative of where our economy is, and I think you can still see some reductions," he said."State workforce is lean - but who cares".
"The preliminary figures indicate manatee deaths in from Jan. 1 to Dec. 5 of 2010 were nearly double the five-year average for the same time period." "Record number of manatee deaths in 2010".
Leon DEC Kerfuffle
"State Democratic Chairwoman Karen Thurman ruled Friday that the results of a controversial election on Monday were valid. Supporters of ousted Leon County Democratic Chairman Larry Simmons vowed to continue fighting." "Thurman: Leon County Democratic Executive Committee vote stands".
RPOFers warned not to document their "intent"
"The Florida Senate’s reapportionment committee met yesterday to discuss a contentious issue — the redrawing of district lines to reflect data gathered in the newest census. It’s an issue that has become more convoluted thanks to the recent passage of Amendments 5 and 6, the so-called 'Fair Districts' amendments that created strict rules for how politicians can draw up district maps."
Under Amendments 5 and 6, which passed in the November elections, districts must be as contiguous as possible, and may not be drawn with the intent of marginalizing minority groups or favoring any incumbent or political party."State Senate discusses redistricting software and timeline, possibility of lawsuit".
State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, warned fellow committee members that "intent" could be determined by analyzing lawmakers’ electronic communications, which could become evidence in such a lawsuit.
Time to cut taxes
"State economic forecasters predicted Friday that without additional appropriations, Florida’s Medicaid program could begin running a deficit as soon as the 2011-2012 fiscal year." "Florida Medicaid Likely to Run Over $2 Billion Short Next Year".
Not exactly Florida's finest
"With Republicans retaking control of the U.S. House, Florida will have more committee leaders than any other state." "Florida's Capitol clout grows".
Walking anachronism takes his leave
"Congressman who tightened U.S.-Cuba embargo retires".
Smoke, mirrors, and a phony grading system?
"Many Florida high schools held pep rallies and pizza parties this week to celebrate A and B state grades, even though standardized test scores statewide improved only marginally and still fewer than half of high schoolers read at grade level."
The dramatic improvement shown by Florida high schools this week under the new state grading system has raised questions about whether the higher grades were warranted."Questions over bump in school grades".
Under the new system, almost half of the 470 public high schools graded by the state improved by at least one letter grade. Overall, the percentage of schools getting an A or B for the 2009-10 school year jumped to 71 percent, up from 41 percent the previous year.
Meanwhile, Florida students on average continue to lag behind their peers in other states in many performance categories.
Congress goes South
"South Florida Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart will take a coveted spot on the House Appropriations Committee next year ... Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami was named chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. John Mica of Winter Park was named chairman of the transportation committee, the largest panel in Congress." "Diaz-Balart gets more clout on spending". See generally "Tour the New House" and "Meet The Chairmen!"
"Lawlessness in the legal system"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "Floridians today can't erase the history of lawlessness in St. Augustine during the civil rights struggle of the 1960s. But the state can set the official record straight by exonerating the accused lawbreakers and making it clear they were victims of a system that denied them equal protection of the laws."
[T]he lawlessness in St. Augustine was not in the streets, but in the legal system. The system not only discriminated against blacks; it punished blacks and whites who lawfully protested the discrimination. "State should clear activists' records".
"This lawsuit looks political"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "When it comes to pollution of Florida waters, many of the state's leading politicians would rather fight than clean."
[T]his lawsuit looks political. It looks like Mr. McCollum's lawsuit challenging the federal health care law. He filed that one during his run for governor. Again, Mr. McCollum filed not at the federal courthouse in Tallahassee but the one in Pensacola. He claimed that the caseload in Pensacola is smaller, and the lawsuit needs quick attention. In fact, he believes that his odds are better when claiming government overreach with the more conservative judges in Pensacola. "Another political lawsuit: State fighting EPA for insisting on standards like ones Florida developed".
With hacks like this, complaining "the federal Environmental Protection Agency is full of fanatics ", you know the lawsuit is purely political.
After all, even "State regulators not echoing sharp criticism against federal water standards".
Same old song and dance
The reliably right wing Orlando Sentinel editorial board predictably buys into TaxWatch's usual tonic, laughably calling it "Sensible ways to save".
Arizona-like immigration law on Florida's horizon
"In 2011, the Republican-controlled Florida legislature will discuss a measure announced in August by state Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, that mimics Arizona’s S.B. 1070 immigration enforcement law." "State Rep. Snyder on his Arizona-style immigration bill: 'It’s a work in progress'". Related: "State Sen. Detert files yet another immigration enforcement act".
Never get between a RPOFer and a free plane flight
Steve Bousquet: "Frank Peterman, the state juvenile justice secretary [is] now facing possible punishment for excessive travel at taxpayer expense. The Ethics Commission has found probable cause that he violated the ethics laws, which means the former St. Petersburg lawmaker faces a full investigation just as his career in state government is ending."
Peterman, 47, took the $120,000 job at DJJ in 2008 and continued to preach at his church in St. Petersburg. He decided the agency needed a satellite office in the city, and that became his workplace much of the time."Peterman case highlights ethics law flaws".
He began commuting regularly by air between Tampa and Tallahassee, even after a 2009 edict that restricted trips to "mission critical" travel.
Within 18 months he racked up more than $44,000 in travel bills, more than half of it between those two cities. His parking fees totaled $2,169. Fees for checked baggage: $562.
Motley crew of potential Nelson challengers
"Buoyed by November's GOP wave and eager to get a head start in what could be a crowded primary, Republican legislators and congressmen are wasting no time taking on Florida's senior senator, deserting a long unwritten rule against legislators aggressively attacking members of the state's congressional delegation."
• Outgoing Sen. George LeMieux, 41, of Broward County, appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist last year to fill the unexpired term of Mel Martinez, is aggressively testing the waters to take on Nelson. "GOP field already building to challenge Bill Nelson".
• State Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, has all but announced his candidacy. He is not well known statewide, but his legislative position will enable him to raise considerable money and elevate his profile.
• U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, has taken a similarly aggressive posture against Nelson. Just before election day, his campaign issued an unusual fundraising appeal that lacked any reference that Mack was on the ballot for the U.S. House. Instead it cast Nelson as a liberal "professional politician."
• Former state House Majority Leader Hasner, 40, is talking to key Republican leaders across the state and country and expects to make a decision after the holidays.
• U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, has long been viewed as a future Senate candidate but lately sounds more focused on his new post as the only Floridian on the influential House Ways and Means Committee. A multimillionaire who can self-fund a campaign, Buchanan, 59, has the luxury of waiting until late in the political season to decide his future.
• Plant City Republican Mike McCalister declared his candidacy Dec. 6 in the Villages. The retired Army colonel was a late entry in the race for governor this year and took a surprising 10 percent of the vote in the GOP primary, which helped Rick Scott defeat Bill McCollum.
Other peoples blood
"Cuban-born Ros-Lehtinen brings hawk's view to foreign affairs".
"A state appeals court has ruled against Republican donors who were trying to get party-switching Gov. Charlie Crist to return their campaign donations." "Court rules against donors seeking Crist refund".
"Prosecutors formally filed a dozen election-fraud charges against suspended [Daytona Beach] City Commissioner Derrick Henry and his campaign manager Thursday, a week before the special election set to refill Henry's empty Zone 5 seat." "Charges formally filed against suspended commissioner".