Bill Cotterell: "The high-stakes political backlash by public employees in Wisconsin, and their supporters in organized labor and the Democratic Party, has some interesting parallels in Florida."
[T]here is a big bust for the employee unions pending in Florida. Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, has sponsored a bill (SB 830) that would end employer deduction of union dues and make unions get written permission from members to use dues money for politics."Wisconsin isn't alone in effort to break unions".
If they lost payroll deductions and were required to make pro-rata refunds to members who don't authorize donations to parties or candidates, the already weak public-employee unions would be hobbled. It's called payback.
Thrasher, a former House speaker who was interim chairman of the Florida Republican Party last year, sponsored the famous (or notorious, depending how you look at it) Senate Bill 6. It would have ended teacher tenure and tied pay raises to student performance, if Gov. Charlie Crist hadn't vetoed it last year.
It's not just teachers' unions. The AFL-CIO, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and Service Employees International Union are labor pillars of the Democratic Party. Even the Police Benevolent Association, which backed Crist and Gov. Jeb Bush, spent heavily on TV spots opposing Scott last year.
So while he denies wanting to avenge SB 6, Thrasher's new bill would cut a cash pipeline to the Democrats.
The The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "A battle between labor and lawmakers is raging in Wisconsin. Tens of thousands of workers have converged on the Capitol to protest Republican Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to curtail collective bargaining rights for government employees. Democratic senators have fled the state to try to sink the proposal, shirking their duty to make a point."
Similar struggles are brewing in other states. Is Florida next? We hope not. ..."Don't pick a fight against unions".
GOP Sen. John Thrasher of Jacksonville, is proposing to hit Florida's public-employee unions in the wallet by making it harder for them to raise and spend money. Unlike Mr. Scott's proposal [to gut pensions], Mr. Thrasher's doesn't have fairness or financial justifications behind it.
Mr. Thrasher, a former state GOP chairman, sponsored a bill last year that would have imposed a merit-pay system on teachers. Then-Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the bill under heavy pressure from the state's top teachers union. Mr. Thrasher took a thrashing.
Now Mr. Thrasher appears bent on settling scores with a bill that would bar government agencies from deducting union dues from employees' paychecks. It also would prohibit unions from using dues for political activity without members' written consent. Naturally, he denies his legislation is payback. He insists it's about giving public employees "a choice."
But public employees already have that choice. Florida is a right-to-work state, so employees, including government workers, can't be forced to join a union. If they don't, they don't have to worry about getting dues deducted from their paychecks. And members have to authorize the deductions.
Thrasher's bill is a solution in search of a problem. ...
Here's what's really going on with the bill: Eliminating paycheck deductions will only make it harder for the unions to raise money to bankroll their operations. Forcing them to jump through another hoop and get written consent for any political spending will reduce their clout even more.
That clout already is at a low ebb in Florida. Unions usually support Democrats, who now hold all of one statewide office — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson — and are at historically weak levels in the House and Senate. If Mr. Thrasher's bill appears on track to pass, it'd invite Wisconsin-style protests from unions desperate to hang on to what little power they have left in Florida.
Teacher haters press on
"Despite pleas from teachers, Republican legislators pushed bills to reform how the state pays and evaluates educators. ... The new model would tie at least 50 percent of teachers’ salaries and contracts to student performance, replacing a structure that values seniority and uses a last-in, first-out layoff policy." "Lawmakers move ahead on teacher bills". See also "Teacher pay overhaul moving forward".
See also "De-Glitched Teacher Pay Bill Sprints to Senate Floor". Related: "Local teachers plan rallies to have their voices heard".
West laff riot
"One night after dismissing a suggestion he run for president in 2012, freshman U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation, said America needs a leader who will 'scare the bejesus' out of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadenijad." "West tells Jupiter town hall gathering: Washington has 'spending problem'".
Ricky losing jobs
"Layoffs likely, PBC schools financial officer says".
"One of the most explosive sessions in years"
"With Florida's economy in the doldrums, a budget shortfall of at least $3.6 billion and a desire to cut taxes, new Gov. Rick Scott and a conservative Republican Legislature see a chance to eliminate or curtail programs they see as unneeded or wasteful."
The legislative session set to start March 8 could be one of the most explosive in years with thousands of state jobs on the line along with cuts to key government services. Rank-and-file state employees, who haven't seen a pay raise in five years, will lose ground again with changes in their pension and health benefits."Gov. Scott asks Legislature to cut government".
Scott and legislators are taking dead aim at education, social services and even law enforcement, with police agencies concerned that they'll have to release some inmates to save housing and feeding costs.
The right-wing media
Nancy Smith blathers on about "Sen. J.D. Alexander's Curious Plane Thing".
"Investors fuel home sales surge across the nation and South Florida".
Ricky's slow start
"Agency chiefs for the departments of health and healthcare administration have yet to be named, and the newly named head of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities resigned before ever starting the job." "Gov. Rick Scott lags in naming agency heads".
"All state politics is local"
"On the same day the Florida Legislature's budget and appropriations committees met in Tallahassee, a consensus emerged during a public forum in our backyard: All state politics is local."
Gov. Rick Scott's proposed budget — and changes being considered by the Legislature — will substantially affect state departments and agencies, the 110,000 employees who work in them, and the services they provide."State budget cuts hit home".
But, since Florida — either intentionally or by default — delegates so many responsibilities to local governments and private-sector providers, the impacts of the state budget are magnified locally.
Bulldozers popping wheelies
"Scott and the Cabinet on Tuesday approved a development plan for more than 5,000 acres in Volusia County after the Florida Department of Community Affairs reversed its opposition under a new administration." "Governor and Cabinet reverse growth agency decision on major development".
Teabaggers go to Tally
"Those expecting a wild legislative session this year might not have to wait long." "Tea party to help kick off state legislative session".
"‘Smart Cap,’ Bill Protecting Citizens' Pocketbooks, Advances in Senate Budget Meeting".
Wingnut of the week
"Public Unions Force Taxpayers to Fund Dems".
Gay haters on alert
"Gay-Marriage Decision Puts Florida on Notice".
Rubio's "death spiral"
"Marco Rubio warns of ‘death spiral’ debt". See also "Marco Rubio Returns to the Florida House".
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "A bipartisan group of federal, state and local leaders should continue its last-ditch effort to satisfy Gov. Rick Scott’s concerns about high-speed rail. Two days of private talks this week give both sides a chance to step back from the political posturing over federal spending and focus on what’s best for the Sunshine State." "Taking risk out of rail".
See also "Scott's rail decision highlights conflicting assumptions" and "Gov. Rick Scott's office, federal officials talking high-speed rail; Scott unmoved".
An ugly visual
"Gov. Scott visits Apalachicola, eats oysters".
No longer "an electoral afterthought"
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Florida may be a fundraiser's paradise, but until the last presidential campaign it was an electoral afterthought. That changed in 2008, when the Legislature defied the rules of the Republican and Democratic national campaign committees and moved the state's primary to the last Tuesday in January." "Hold to the primary date".
Public employee unions pressing pension fight
"Florida legislators are not embracing the sweeping employee pension reforms being advanced by Gov. Rick Scott. At a House hearing Wednesday, members grilled a Scott staffer on the financial impact of requiring all new employees to enroll in 401(k)-type investment plans and on how employees might react to contributing 5 percent of their salaries -- both key Scott demands." "Lawmakers backing away from Scott's stringent pension-reform plans".
"Highly partisan opening week of the 2011 Legislature"
"Senate Republicans said Wednesday they are intent on making good on last fall's campaign promises -- setting the stage for a highly partisan opening week of the 2011 Legislature. In party-line votes, the GOP-ruled Budget Committee OK'd four high-profile bills that touch on many of the issues raised by Republican Gov. Rick Scott and other Florida GOP candidates during last fall's contests." "Senate GOP sets campaign pledges up for early votes when session starts".
"Legal wranglings continue in the Florida-led lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of federal health care legislation." "Florida's attorney general calls U.S. Justice Department request in health care lawsuit a delaying tactic".