"When the Florida Legislature convenes in two weeks, two men will wield almost uncheckable power over a conservative agenda of no taxes, budget cuts, teacher performance, Medicaid and pension reform."
House Speaker Dean Cannon, a lawyer from Winter Park, and Senate President Mike Haridopolos, a Merritt Island college professor who is running for U.S. Senate, are poised to dominate the debate over the state's budget and job crisis."Marching in lockstep".
Unlike previous presiding officers, Cannon and Haridopolos consolidated their power on the strength of a veto-proof majority delivered by the Republican landslide in November. They strengthened that clout by steering millions of dollars in campaign cash to the political campaigns of newcomers who now owe their elections in large part to them.
Weekly Roundup: "Planes and Trains and a Drug Database".
"Florida is the wild, wild West"
"There have been improvements [in the way money is now raised and spent in state races]: campaign finance reports are available any time to any person with an Internet connection, no longer locked in a Tallahassee office to be read only during business hours."
But many cite myriad problems built into a campaign-finance system tilted to favor political parties, a dynamic that contributes to a partisan divide in the Capitol and concentrates power among a few lawmakers."Their most common complaints:"
"Florida is the wild, wild West," said Mark Herron, an election law expert with the Florida Democratic Party. "For all intents and purposes, we are a wide-open state with no limits."
Herron's refrain was repeated by more than a dozen Republicans, Democrats, campaign finance attorneys and professional fundraisers.
• Contribution caps of $500 for state candidates are unrealistically low. It's nearly impossible to pay for a statewide campaign that way and it's too easy to circumvent the limit.Much more here: "All checks, no balances". Related: "Dollars are hard to track".
• Politicians avoid accountability by using state parties to collect and spend six-figure campaign contributions from corporate donors.
• The rise of so-called 501(c)(4) groups, which are corporations that can engage in lobbying and campaigning without having to disclose donors.
"Tea party-related transportation tale"
"Florida’s still on track to get $2.4 billion in federal funds for a high-speed rail project from Tampa to Orlando, the latest twist in a tea party-related transportation tale." "UPDATE: Florida gets more time for hi-speed rail".
"One confusing mess"
"It’s a high-speed, high-stakes game of he-said, he-said — and one confusing mess. The nation’s No. 1 transportation official on Friday gave a burst of hope to backers of a high-speed rail project in Florida by saying Gov. Rick Scott asked for more information on a proposal and therefore he was extending the deadline a week. But Scott later said it was the official who pushed for more time and insisted he remains convinced there’s no way to alleviate financial risk to the state." "Feds give more time to high-speed rail proposal". See also "LaHood gives Florida another week for high-speed rail". Related: "Despite Nelson, Scott Insists Boondoggle Rail Is Dead" and "Gov. Rick Scott's rejection of federal money for Florida's high-speed rail unleashed the un-Iorio".
"It's a dubious distinction"
"South Florida has the nation's biggest burden when it comes to monthly housing costs. ... The Center for Housing Policy said the three-county region also led the U.S. in 2008, when 39 percent of homeowners devoted more than half of their income to housing." "South Florida housing burden leads nation, study finds".
"Dade schools chief: Don’t cut education".
RPOFers go after the unemployed
"Partisan vote moves bill cutting unemployment weeks through committee". "Unemployment Compensation Bill Heads to House Floor".
Wingnuts wash Jebbie's feet
"After the speech, moderator and radio talk show host Neil Boortz questioned Bush on the possibility of running for president. "I am not a candidate, but I'm in the political arena," he responded. Answering another question from Boortz, Bush said so far he was impressed with Gov. Rick Scott." "Jeb Bush talks about America's issues in Marco".
"A bespectacled Jeb Bush nearly blushed at the admiration he received from a crowd of about 400 people in Marco Island. ... Bush has been coy about possible presidential plans beyond 2012". "Jeb Bush quiets presidential run talk but says country needs fixing".
Teabaggers lining up for tix
"On March 4, she’s scheduled to meet with grassroots activists at the Abacoa Golf Club in Jupiter, Fl. She’ll be making a speech about spending and constitutional issues followed by a Q & A session." "Bachmann tea partying in Florida".
"Scott's allegiance to the health care industry"
"The removal of the state's chief advocate for nursing home residents has riled those who work with the elderly and disabled and fueled accusations he was let go because of Gov. Rick Scott's allegiance to the health care industry." "Advocate for Fla. nursing home residents removed".
While the Republicans were cutting their pensions ...
... "Firefighters battle two house fires early Saturday". More: "Two firefighters suffer injuries responding to Elgin Lane blaze".
How to kill a bill
"State lawmakers file thousands of bills each year. About 10 percent make it through committees, votes in both chambers and are signed into law by the governor." "The Legislature has many ways to kill a bill".
"Likely causing a long series of dominoes to fall"
"Florida Gov. Rick Scott wants the earliest possible presidential primary date for his state. Two Democratic state Senators are trying to have the state vote in late January, leapfrogging Iowa and New Hampshire — and likely causing a long series of dominoes to fall that could end with the entire primary calendar being moved forward." "Primary brinkmanship from Rick Scott".
Ricky's unintelligible comments about collective bargaining
Update - From the who elected this idiot files: "Days after Gov. Rick Scott told a Tallahassee radio station that he was supportive of collective bargaining, he now says he wishes it weren't allowed in Florida." "Gov. Rick Scott now says he'd like collective bargaining removed from Constitution"
Unlike Wisconsin, the "governors in Michigan and Florida appear to be taking a more conciliatory approach to unions, hoping to avoid the full-fledged brawl in Wisconsin."
"That's not our path," said Michigan's Rick Snyder, who won election on a pro-business agenda. He said he wants cost savings, too, but "I and my administration fully intend to work with our employees and union partners in a collective fashion."All that is well and good, but what on earth is Ricky trying to say here:
Florida Gov. Rick Scott told a Tallahassee radio station, "As long as people know what they're doing, you know, collective bargaining's fine, but be honest with people, be honest with taxpayers. If you're going to give these benefits to people, whether it's pension benefits or health care benefits, let's all be honest about it.""Some Republicans soften tough talk on unions".
Scott will soon flip-flop when he reads "Another Day, Another Right-Wing Poll With Bad News For Walker". Then again, "Gallup Poll: Only Highest Earners Support Gutting Collective Bargaining".
Sad irony: Ricky not kind to fellow crooks
"Time and again Thursday, the panel rejected petitions for clemency, even in cases where the Florida Parole Commission staff recommended approval." "Dispensing tough love at the Clemency Board".
Whew ... that was close
"Norman says he will fix bill that would make it illegal to take photos of farms". Background: "Photographing cows or other farm scenery could land you in jail under Senate bill".
After all, he is an expert on the fifth amendment
The man whose previous experience with the Constitution is limited to pleading the fifth, is now mired in a constitutional struggle with the Florida Legislature: "Rick Scott, lawmakers are divided over separation of powers".
"10 terms of (political) art"
Steve Bousquet: "The language of the Legislature".
Raw sewage from the RPOFers
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "For a guy chairing the Florida Senate committee safeguarding environmental preservation, Sen. Charlie Dean is fast becoming the face for dirty water. Dean, R-Inverness, is advocating a shortsighted and foolish plan to repeal mandatory septic tank inspections that are intended to reduce water pollution." "Foolish plan makes Florida's water dirtier".
Entrepreneurs in action
"Alleged South Florida pill mill boss made fortune in a few years". As Ricky sleeps, "As debate over prescription drug database rages, raids in South Florida".
Wingnuts demand filthy lakes and streams
"An upcoming Senate vote could be crucial to the implementation of the EPA’s Florida water quality rules, and much of the pressure rests on the shoulders of Sen. Bill Nelson." "Nelson’s Senate vote key to EPA water quality rules".
Senate President with ethics problems likes TABOR
"Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos has promised an exciting first week of the legislative session, with bills from his constitutional amendment challenging federal health care reform to a revised version of last year’s Senate Bill 6 scheduled to reach the floor. The so-called 'Smart Cap' amendment, which would place a constitutional limit on state revenue, is set to join the lineup, having cleared its final two committees this week." "TABOR-style revenue cap ready for final Florida Senate vote".
"Conflict", what conflict?
Steve Bousquet: "As the saying goes, the fox is often guarding the henhouse." "Some conflicts of interest".
Gallup: only 39% of Floridians "conservative"
Poll results here.
SA wants to try him as an adult?
"Orange County boy, 8, arrested at school after police called".
Unable to indict even a ham sandwich
"Florida’s 19th Grand Jury on Public Corruption issued its final report late last week, slamming the Broward County School Board in a 51-page report detailing the 'gross mismanagement and apparent ineptitude' of board members who squandered millions of taxpayer dollars in the nation’s sixth largest school district." "Grand Jury blasts Broward School Board for incompetence, corruption, but identifies no guilty individuals".
Hate from Jax
"Project SOS, a Jacksonvile-based abstinence education program, has received more than $6.5 million in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services since 2002 — including $454,000 in September 2010. This despite the fact that the group has been cited for teaching false information about HIV and is a supporter of Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, one of the most outspoken advocates of legislation in that country that prescribes the death penalty for homosexuals." "Federally funded Jacksonville abstinence program has ties to ‘Kill the Gays’ Ugandan pastor".
What a difference four decades makes
"Four decades ago, a respected political think tank rated the Florida Legislature as one of the best in the country for its enlightened leadership, expert staff and bipartisan willingness to tackle tough issues."
Today, the Legislature's longest-serving member has a very different way of describing it."Damaged by term limits".
"It's terrible, just terrible," said Sen. Dennis Jones, a moderate Pinellas County Republican in his 31st year of lawmaking. "You just don't have the camaraderie you had years before."
Jones and others are exasperated at what they see: excessive and often scripted partisanship, obsessive and loosely regulated special-interest fundraising and harshly negative campaigning.
Orlando Sentinel editors chagrined
"Siplin wins ethics appeal".
GOPers at "work"
"State leaders weigh in on possibility of federal government shutdown". "Possible Federal Government Shutdown 2011 Casts Shadow on Florida".
"A judge threw out the county mayor’s challenge that claimed the petitions seeking the recall election, set for March 15, were flawed." "Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez loses court challenge on recall election".
"City Commissioner Jimmy Flynt bounced his candidate's qualification check so he paid in cash and will be permitted to run in the March 8 election." "Cash payment allows Bunnell official to run despite bad check".