"Eustis. That was where Gov. Rick Scott chose to release his first budget recommendations at a rally attended by a thousand tea party activists in a Baptist church hall so big it doubles as a basketball court."
Scott, lots of cheering, flag-waving "patriots," God and country all under one roof in small-town America. It was a clever bit of political packaging, but it seemed a little too contrived and almost Disney-esque in its slickness. Where was Hannity?"For Rick Scott, Eustis visit a necessity".
Tea partiers' support was instrumental in his decisive Republican primary victory over Bill McCollum in August that propelled him to power, but the politically inexperienced governor largely neglected them during his two-month transition, and they didn't like it.
Rep. Mike Weinstein of Jacksonville, an early Scott supporter, said: "Since he was elected, there's been somewhat of a concern by the tea party that they're losing a connection to him." Eustis, he said, "was also sort of a payback to the tea party for helping him get elected."
Back in Tallahassee, some felt the tea party gesture was a political blunder by Scott, who won with less than a majority and entered office with the highest negative poll numbers of any modern governor.
Sen. Mike Bennett, a Bradenton Republican, said that instead of broadening his political base, Scott seemed to be doing precisely the opposite.
Cannon, Scott rift
"While calling the governor 'gracious' and 'smart' Friday during an hour meeting with the St. Petersburg Times editorial board, Cannon described Scott’s budget as an 'unorthodox' plan that he’s 'perplexed by.'"
While Cannon backs Scott’s planned reorganization of economic development agencies, Cannon ruled little else out — or in."House speaker “perplexed” by Scott’s budget proposal".
Other issues where Cannon has questions:
• Scott originally said education would be spared from cuts in his budget. But his proposal cuts per-pupil funding by $703 and Cannon said the spending plan needs scrutiny. “I think the notion of just not replacing the federal stimulus money is I think a bitter pill, I mean it’s too big a pill,” he said.
• Scott also has proposed collapsing the Department of Community Affairs — the state’s growth management arm — and combining it with the Department of Environmental Protection. Cannon cautioned against the restructuring, though he said development decisions need to be made swifter. “I think that it’s more important that we look at the regulations themselves than we move agency deck chairs around. I would rather focus at leaving agencies intact” and rewriting regulations, Cannon said. “They approve 95 percent of the things that come to them, but they take 13 months to do it.”
• Cannon left open the possibility of backing President Barack Obama’s offer to let the state delay paying back billions of dollars borrowed for jobless benefits. On Wednesday, Scott balked at it, but Cannon called it "intriguing."
Big of him
"Scott has said no to the idea of closing some of Florida's state parks as a cost-cutting measure after touring the Department of Environmental Protection's headquarters on Friday." "Scott rejects closing state parks". See also "Scott says no to Florida state park closures".
The Miami Herald editorial board observes that "the governor hasn’t bothered to explain why he would want to repeal legislation aimed at preventing lucrative drug trafficking and the many tragic overdoses from these ill-gotten prescriptions." "Scott dead wrong on pill-mill law".
Bottom of the barrel
"When Jeb Bush says he won't run for president in 2012, it makes Republicans want him more".
HD 103 special election results
"Sharon Pritchett narrowly defeated Barbara Watson late Tuesday in a special primary to elect a new member of the Florida House of Representatives from a district that covers Miramar and northern sections of Miami-Dade County. With all precincts in Miami-Dade and Broward reporting, Pritchett had 1,665 votes and Watson had 1,651, while the third candidate, Erhabor Ighodaro, trailed with 684 votes. The 103rd state House District, which stretches from Miami-Dade County into Miramar, is 75 percent Democratic, and all three candidates were Democrats." "Pritchett wins tight race for state House 103 seat".
Slamming Florida's unemployed
The Sun Sentinel editorial board: "The truth is, being unemployed is plenty difficult — financially, mentally and personally. These days, very few people are unemployed by choice. Now, a Florida state legislator is proposing something that would make it even more difficult on the 564,869 residents who collect unemployment compensation (that's out of the 1.1 million unemployed in the state)."
Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, has introduced a bill that would require the state's unemployed to do at least four hours of unpaid service each week to qualify for benefits. Earlier, Gov. Rick Scott's economic development transition team recommended community service for those on jobless benefits after 12 weeks."Don't make it rougher for the unemployed".
No other state has such a requirement, and Florida shouldn't be the first.
"A South Florida transit agency that oversees Tri-Rail is accused of mishandling the bidding and purchase of 10 new locomotives for the three-county train system."
In a formal written protest, GE Transportation alleges that the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority used bid guidelines to steer a $100 million-plus contract, which the company claims will cost taxpayers an additional $1 million per locomotive."Corporate Collision Looms at Tri-Rail".
Even before the SFRTA board officially awards the contract -- it's scheduled to do so at its Feb. 25 meeting -- powerful state politicians, business groups and even environmentalists have blasted the agency in a series of scathing letters.
"Scott’s budget includes big tax cuts, but not for everybody".
For sale, cheap
"State sells planes at cut-rate prices; Scott says deal saves taxpayers money".
From the "values" crowd
"Gov. Scott’s budget cuts could hit needy".
Aaron Deslatte: "Before he took office, Gov. Rick Scott asked a transition team of insurance-industry insiders and lobbyists to come up with recommendations for new restrictions on the right to sue. Now, as a number of his other top priorities have hit early turbulence, tort reform and insurance is one area where the new governor and Republican-dominated Legislature are perfectly in sync."
Scott had pledged to cut back on red tape, but his Office of Fiscal Accountability has so far failed to unearth a single new regulation worth killing out of the 900 he put on indefinite hold last month."Lawmakers, Scott agree about insurance, tort reform".
His "accountability budget" – with its deep cuts to education, eradication of most earmarks and attacks on trust funds – looks like a hard sell to skeptical legislators.
The governor now says he won't push to expand school vouchers this year.
Scott's aides even conceded he would defer to the Legislature on how to cut costs in the $20-billion Medicaid health-care program for the poor, an area that would seem right in the former health-care executive's policy wheelhouse. Senators plan to roll out the first draft of their Medicaid reform plan this week.
But tort reform is one place where Republican lawmakers can give the governor an easy win.
Wingnut laff riot
"Trump dangles potential 2012 bid before CPAC".
Mail ballots popular
"Record number of Tampa voters request mail ballots".
"A state lawmaker is on a mission to eliminate absurd Florida laws — and there are plenty." "Lawmaker wants bad laws banished forever".
"A great horned owl that was struck by a vehicle on Interstate 75 in southwest Florida had to be euthanized because of the seriousness of its injuries. Bonita Springs Fire Rescue reports that a car hit the bird Thursday evening. The driver had initially thought the bird had died but then found it stuck in the car's grill Friday morning. Firefighters helped pull the severely injured bird from the grill." "Owl euthanized after being hit by car".