"If the Judicial Qualifications Commission is looking for one clear moment of conduct unbecoming a judge, it could look at 1st District Court of Appeal Judge Paul Hawkes' inaccurate account to a Senate committee this month of his pursuit of the 'Taj Mahal' courthouse. His sorry performance is also a reminder of the price Floridians are paying for a politicized judiciary."
Apparently, Hawkes has no fear about spinning a version of events that is at odds with the facts. Indeed, 1st District voters returned him to the bench for at least another six years in November, even after St. Petersburg Times senior correspondent Lucy Morgan reported how he and other judges pursued the new building and demanded such amenities as private kitchens and soundproof bathrooms. But Hawkes and his colleagues didn't act alone. They had help from legislators — including new U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and new Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist — and the state Department of Management Services, which acquiesced to many of their demands.More from the Saint Petersburg Times editors: "Conduct unworthy of court".
Bush's hands are not clean, either. It was during his tenure in 2001 that the Legislature, where Hawkes was then working for the House Policy Committee, made the selection of judges a de facto patronage arrangement and abandoned a nonpartisan nomination process. Now the governor completely controls the nominating committees and thus the list of nominations from which he appoints judges. The result is too often predictable: Political insiders like Hawkes who are not the best qualified are named to the bench.
"Our new Twitter-deep guv."
Frank Cerabino: "Now that he's in office, [Scott] needed a cheaper way to give the illusion of access while avoiding all those pesky specifics that come with giving long-form answers to knowledgeable skeptics capable of asking follow-up questions."
And when you're governor, you can't rely on the route of pleading the Fifth Amendment to questions you don't like, as Scott famously did 75 times during one sworn deposition in his previous life of service for the greater personal good."The enforced shallowness of Twitter suits Gov. Rick Scott".
Less wordy than TV ads
And so he has discovered Twitter, holding his first-ever Twitter town hall Thursday night, devoting an entire 38 minutes to tackle questions that were asked and answered in 140 characters or less.
And yes, the spaces between words count as characters on Twitter.
If you thought those 30-second campaign ads were the epitome of sparse bouquets of Palinesque nothingness, think again.
Those TV ads were practically War and Peace length when compared to our new Twitter-deep guv.
Scott's "vouchers-for-all" program DOA?
In Florida, "critics have decried a 'voucher-for-all' program as an attack on public education and an improper way to funnel public money to private schools."
The teachers union attorney who led the fight against Florida's first voucher program called the idea "dead on arrival" and predicted it would not survive a likely court challenge."Gov. Rick Scott's school-voucher push faces legal hurdles".
A savings-plan law, however, would offer such broad choices to parents that it could not be accused of sending money solely to private schools nor of creating a parallel school system in violation of Florida's constitutional requirement for "uniform" public schools, said Clint Bolick, the institute's litigation director.
Bolick was one of the attorneys who successfully argued for school vouchers — taxpayer-financed tuition payments — before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2002, the nation's top court said it was constitutional for public money to pay for children to attend private schools, even religious ones.
But state courts in Arizona and Florida later struck down voucher programs, declaring them illegal under their stricter state constitutions. So in both places, advocates of programs that would spend public-school money outside public schools must tailor any new efforts to meet their state-court requirements.
"But, by gosh, they didn't 'raise taxes'"
Howard Troxler: "Two years ago, the "conservative" Republicans who ran Tallahassee jacked up a bunch of fees on Floridians to balance their state budget, $2.2 billion worth. But, by gosh, they didn't 'raise taxes.'"
Last year, those same Republicans sucked up as many billions of dollars as they could from the feds to balance their budget — all the time griping about how liberal the Democrats were for giving it to them!"They're ready to cut — are we ready to be cut?".
This brings us to this year, and the big news:
There's a new crop of Republicans in town, and they say They Really Mean It.
"Expect plenty of bumps"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "If Central Florida ever gets its high-speed train route from Orlando to Tampa, riders will enjoy smooth trips reaching a thrilling 168-miles-an-hour. Until then, expect plenty of bumps." "Another bump for rail".
Governor Scott in the Conservatory with an empty Syringe
"The decision by an Illinois drug company to stop producing a drug used in Florida executions could lead to delays." "Drug shortage could delay executions in Florida".
"Something of a mystery, even to lawmakers"
"Larry Metz is new to the Florida Legislature, but the state representative from Eustis was quick Friday to pinpoint the main challenge confronting lawmakers this spring."
First, the state is facing a $3.6 billion budget shortfall. Then there's Gov. Rick Scott's promise to cut property and corporate taxes, which could add another $2 billion to the budget gap."Budget crunch concerns local legislators".
"That's a lot of money to cut," Metz told members of the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce at a breakfast meeting to preview the legislative session that begins March 8. "It's not going to be easy, and it's not going to be pretty, but we're going to have to do it."
Metz, a former Lake County School Board member whose district includes DeBary and part of Deltona, was one of four representatives to speak to the group at the meeting at Gene's Steakhouse in Daytona Beach. Budget concerns were also a part of presentations from Fred Costello, R-Ormond Beach, Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, and Dwayne Taylor, D-Daytona Beach.
"It's going to be very challenging. It's not going to be an easy session," Taylor said.
It's still something of a mystery, even to lawmakers, how the Legislature will reconcile a $70 billion budget. The recession continues to dampen state revenues, and the rise of unemployment and poverty has increased demand for many services.
Scott Maxwell hopes Dan Webster is somehow different than the rest of the RPOF. "'No' should not be last word on health-care reform".
Myriam Marquez is "Trying to make sense from the senseless".
The RPOF's criminal justice record
The Palm Beach Post editorial board points out the results of more than a decade of RPOFer control in Tallahassee:
# In 2000-01, 38 percent of new prison inmates had been convicted of crimes less serious than a third-degree felony, which comes with a maximum 5-year sentence. It is the least serious felony. Anything less is a misdemeanor. In 2008-09, 47 percent of new inmates had been convicted of those less serious crimes, many of them non-violent."Ask for the max on corrections reform: State can spend less, still protect public, turn lives around".
# Most incarcerated juveniles are guilty of nonviolent or property crimes. Forty percent of juveniles are in custody for probation violations.
# Half of Florida's prison inmates read at a sixth-grade level or lower. The number of mentally ill inmates has tripled in the past 15 years.
# Roughly one-third of inmates who are released return to prison within three years. That rate has varied little over the past decade. But only 1 percent of the Department of Corrections budget is spent on programs to reduce what is called recidivism.
Damn gub'ment reger'lations
"The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the collapse." "Authorities identify man killed in crane collapse".
Killing the Florida Black Bear
"Come June, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is to decide whether to take the bear off the state's threatened-species list, which shields it from hunting and, to a lesser degree, land development." "Hunting black bears may be best way to ensure their future |".
Some call them wingnuts
"They say Florida's social studies textbooks are biased in favor of Islam. They say it's part of a deliberate effort to brainwash American children. They want them fixed or dumped." "Critics Say Florida's Social Studies Textbooks Favor Islam".
While the rest of us were watchin' the game ...
"Two Broward sheriff's deputies carried an unconscious 80-year-old man from his burning home in Oakland Park on Saturday morning. Paramedics revived him before rushing him to Holy Cross Hospital, according to Oakland Park Fire Rescue." "Deputies rescue man, 80, from Oakland Park fire".
Entrepreneurs don' need no stinkin' reger'lations
"Some Florida foreclosure rescue companies and law firms that offer loan modifications continue to charge upfront fees and do little to help struggling homeowners, according to thousands of complaints filed with state regulators." "Florida regulators receiving new complaints about mortgage modifications".
"McCarty sees the light"
"McCarty, 56, was a hard-charging, tough-talking force on the county commission and in local Republican circles for 18 years before resigning in 2009 and pleading guilty to a federal felony count of honest services fraud." "Mary McCarty sees the light from federal prison".
"The most outrageous thing I've ever seen"
Fred Grimm: "Under HB 155, sponsored by (among others) Miami's own Rep. Frank Artiles, Dr. Nemeroff's life-saving act becomes a felony. Artiles appeared on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 Tuesday, ostensibly to defend his bill though he seemed painfully unaware of its contents. It was as if Artiles had pasted up an NRA template without bothering to read it." "Muzzle law would meddle in doctors' work".
"I wish you luck in your re-election"
"Florida needs "stability, certainty and predictability" before its businesses can begin putting people back to work -- and the state Legislature is looking to provide that foundation, Senate President Mike Haridopolos said Saturday night. 'We need to bring confidence back,' the Merritt Island Republican told members of the Halifax Area Civic League at the group's annual dinner at Oceanside Country Club in Ormond Beach. 'I believe our best days are still ahead of us if we keep the path that brought us all this prosperity.' Haridopolos, 40, will be leading the first veto-proof, Republican-controlled Legislature since Reconstruction when the new legislative session begins March 8."
"While speaking of pension reform, Haridopolos singled out in the crowd former Ormond Beach Mayor Fred Costello, who was elected to the House in November and plans to file a pension reform bill."
"Fred, bravo for taking on this issue as a freshman (lawmaker)," Haridopolos told him before adding, "I wish you luck in your re-election.""Senator: Officials look to build confidence".