"Rivera’s Washington career in jeopardy"
The David Rivera hits keep on coming: "Before launching his bid for Congress last year, David Rivera embarked on a record-breaking campaign for the state Senate, amassing more than $1 million in donations some eight months before Election Day."
"Rivera paid $250,000 of that money to his fundraiser and longtime ally, Esther Nuhfer — including $150,000 in 'bonus' money, records show — all for a political campaign that Rivera never finished."
Why are these folks smiling?
Rivera dropped that state Senate campaign early to run for Congress. With Nuhfer’s help, Rivera went on to easily win the congressional race, defeating Republican opponents in the primary and Democrat Joe Garcia in November."Rep. Rivera’s fundraising consultant collected $817,000 in fees since 2006".
But Rivera’s nascent Washington career is in jeopardy, as criminal investigators in Miami and Tallahassee comb through his personal finances and campaign accounts — including the Senate account that fattened Nuhfer’s pocketbook. Investigators also are focusing on Rivera’s tight relationship with Nuhfer.
Rivera has denied any wrongdoing. Nuhfer did not return messages seeking comment.
"Unscrupulous, opportunistic multimillionaire with a shady past"
Stephen Goldstein: "You've been had. In his proposed budget, Gov. Rick Scott is throwing Florida households crumbs, a pathetic, estimated $134 a year in tax savings, according to PolitiFact Florida. He gives corporations the greatest savings, planning eventually to do away with the tax on their income. Like a typical Republican, he's taking money from government, the middle class and the poor — and redistributing it to the private sector."
Elected by just 48.9 percent of voters, with no clear mandate, Scott was an enigma when he took office. At best, Floridians hoped he'd be a wonder-working businessman with an entrepreneurial magic wand to cure the state's ailing economy. At worst, they feared he'd turn out to be an unscrupulous, opportunistic multimillionaire with a shady past who would drive the state into a ditch."Budget sham: We've been had by Scott's math".
It turns out the worst we might have feared from him is the best we can hope for, now that he's presented his first budget. The question is not if he will be bad, but how disastrous. When the nation needs healing from being torn apart by fringe political groups and sectarians trying to inject religion into the state, Scott presented his budget to an adoring tea party rally in a church in Eustis.
"He's just getting warmed up"
Howard Troxler: "To recap the criticism of recent days: Our new governor is, let's see, an idiot, an ideologue, a reactionary, a Luddite, a fool and a raving lunatic. ... I suspect he's just getting warmed up." "The boos for Gov. Rick Scott are loud, but hardly unanimous".
Feds saying no to Ricky bypass
"Federal officials on Saturday balked at a scaled-back plan for high-speed rail proposed by a powerful Florida congressman, giving hope to advocates for an entire Orlando-to-Tampa line but underscoring the efforts’ shaky status."
U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, late Friday announced a plan to dramatically shrink the project to an Orlando International Airport to Walt Disney World link."Plan for shorter high-speed rail rebuffed".
Chairman of the House transportation committee, Mica contends it’s the best way to get the project rolling and overcome the problem presented by Gov. Rick Scott’s rejection of $2.4 billion in federal funding.
But Sen. Bill Nelson spoke with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Saturday and said later that federal officials are saying no to Mica’s plan, which would be limited to 21 miles in the Orlando area. The idea was to connect large metropolitan areas and quickly move people between them. ...
What happens next is unclear. Mica’s sudden plan paired with the apparent disapproval by the Department of Transportation made for a lot of unknowns Saturday and time is running out.
A loose coalition of Florida officials has until Friday to come up with an alternative that bypasses the state and transfers the money to some other entity, such as a regional transportation board or local government.
"A level playing field"
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "The bookstore chain Borders did not cite Florida's outdated sales tax law last week when it announced it would shutter four of five Tampa Bay stores as it enters Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. But the competitive disadvantage for the state's retailers that the Florida Legislature refuses to address is at least partially to blame. As long as Internet-only sellers such as Amazon.com can get away with not collecting state sales tax and effectively sell their products for at least 6 percent less, Florida merchants pay the price. It's past time for lawmakers to work toward a level playing field." "Internet tax loophole costs Florida billions".
"Ideological organization with an issue ax to grind"
"Florida has paid less than $6,000 for its landmark challenge to President Obama's health care law largely because a business lobbying group is picking up an undisclosed share of the remaining legal costs."
While Florida, joined by 25 other states, won a favorable ruling last month from a federal district judge, the cost the states have split so far amounts to $46,000."Lobbyist’s funding of health law challenge raises issues".
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi told a state House committee this month that most of the rest is being covered by the National Federation of Independent Business, a group that opposes the law because of what it considers unconstitutional costs and regulations on firms and people. ...
"I'm not sure most voters understand that a lawsuit by their states is being funded by an ideological organization with an issue ax to grind," said Ethan Rome, executive director of Health Care for America Now, a Washington-based group whose contributors include unions and others who support the act. "In this case there appears to a serious perversion of the process." ...
Some legislators said they were troubled that a business group with its own agenda is playing such a prominent financial role.
"My concern is if it's a lawsuit on behalf of the people of Florida, then I would believe it should be the people of Florida footing the bill," said state Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, a member of the House Health and Human Services Committee. "When you have an outside party paying, then every aspect of the AG's office might be up for sale. This type of thing raises all kind of red flags."
NFIB officials declined to say how much the group is spending.
"Not gonna, no," said Bill Herrle, NFIB's Florida executive director. "Good luck."
Feel free to move to Texas, Ricky
"If Florida Gov. Rick Scott has an idol, it's probably Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Everywhere he goes, Scott extols Perry's work in making the Lone Star state business-friendly."
But Texas's pending state budget gap, $13.4 billion, dwarfs Florida's, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities."Scott looks to Texas, but both states have problems".
As a percentage of their 2011 budgets, the Center said, Florida's deficit is less than half the size of Texas's.
As of December, Florida had the third-worst unemployment rate in the nation, at 12 percent, and it had the nation's 3rd worse foreclosure rate for 2010, according to RealtyTrac.
Texas's 8.3 percent jobless rate was better than most, and its foreclosure rate 29th worst -- both better than Florida, but worse than some states with higher taxes and stricter business regulations.
Meanwhile, Texas was also No. 1 in the nation in food stamp recipients, averaging 3.5 million during 2010, while Florida, with almost as large a population, was fourth with 2.6 million.
According to figures compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Texas in 2010 was also:
•Fifth in the nation in the percentage of its population at "near-poverty" income levels – less than 139 percent of federal poverty level -- while Florida was 18th.
•Fourth in its incarceration rate, while Florida was seventh.
•33rd in median annual income while Florida was lower, but not much, at 38th.
"Hold the bad actors accountable for their crimes"
The Saint Petersburg Times editors: "There's no other way to say it: The state agency charged with protecting consumers from dishonest real estate agents, appraisers and instructors is falling down on the job. We need better responsiveness by the state and law enforcement officials to quickly pursue the most egregious cases and hold the bad actors accountable for their crimes." "Crack down on real estate fraud".
While the rest of us were sleeping
"Firefighters discovered a body inside a house in Seffner early this morning. Firefighters found the body when they got inside the house at 2509 Giddens Ave., Hillsborough County Fire Rescue said. ... Six pieces of equipment and 18 firefighters responded to the fire, the department said." "Firefighters discover body inside Seffner house".
"Fairness . . . that’s a budget buster"
Fred Grimm: "All this talk about compensation for wrongful convictions. Not in Florida. Not for the likes of Anthony Caravella."
Why, it’s Caravella who owes Florida — $71.93 a day. Comes to $682,615.70 for the 26 years Anthony mooched room and board off the Florida penal system, taking up valuable prison space for a crime someone committed.Much more here: "Florida won’t pay for injustice".
The lousy freeloader. He’s damn lucky the Florida Legislature doesn’t send him a bill.
Compensation? This is a Legislature bent on cutting public school and state university budgets, pension costs, healthcare for the poor and disabled, nursing-home services for the elderly. Some pathetic case from Miramar, IQ of 67, busted at 15 and imprisoned for the next 26 years for a crime he didn’t commit, released March 25 without job skills? Get real.
Let’s examine the only facts that matter: Anthony Caravella hasn’t established a political action committee, hired a lobbyist or ponied up crucial campaign contributions. He belongs to a politically impotent constituency: Floridians whose lives were ruined by shoddy police investigations, negligent prosecutors, oblivious judges. A bunch of convenient stooges for a justice system in need of quick and easy convictions. In 1983, Caravella, young and slow minded, was easily bullied into confessing to a rape and murder that, 26 years later, DNA testing proved he didn’t commit. ...
The list goes on; ruined lives for whom wrongful incarceration compensation remains an illusionary concept. Sorry guys but fairness . . . that’s a budget buster.
"Senators from Florida, New York, Rhode Island and West Virginia called on Florida Gov. Rick Scott to enact a program they say would better track the growing trade of abused prescription drugs to other states in what the Drug Enforcement Agency has called the 'flamingo express.'" "4 senators ask Florida to end 'flamingo express' prescription drug trafficking".
Scott makes the traditional media relevant again
Antonio Fins: "Thank you, Gov. Scott. Thanks for making me, and my colleagues, relevant. No, I'm not being sarcastic or facetious. At least not totally. Allow me to explain." "Scott unwittingly empowers the press".
Will any of this create the promised 700,000 jobs?
"Christmas could come early for Florida businesses if Gov. Rick Scott can push through his economic plans. Companies will pay less income tax. Fewer regulators will scrutinize development plans. And, businesses will get some relief on unemployment taxes. But, will any of the new governor's ideas actually help him create the 700,000 jobs he promised during his campaign?"
Scott's office did not return calls for this article. However, his speeches and public documents lay out his agenda. Among his biggest ideas:"How will Scott's plans work?"
• Cutting corporate taxes. Scott would lower the corporate income tax from 5.5 percent of profits to 3 percent by January 2012. By January 2018, the tax would disappear entirely, according to Florida TaxWatch analysis.
• Reducing the unemployment compensation tax burden [sic]. The minimum tax rate last year was about $25 per employee, but that will jump to about $72 this year. Scott's proposals won't undo that big tax increase, but they might reduce the size of business' tax increase by about 10 percent.
• Eliminating regulations. Scott has proposed rolling the Florida Department of Community Affairs – an agency that tries to manage growth - into the Department of Environmental Protection. Local governments would pick up more responsibility to control development.
Cutting the corporate income tax might be the toughest idea to pull off, because Florida's already facing a $3 billion budget deficit.
Plus, less than 2 percent of Florida's businesses actually pay the income tax, which might dull its job-creating impact.
"Even though retired, some special tax board members continue to receive advantages". "For some Fla. officials, part-time duties, full-time benefits".
"Arrogant disregard for Legislature"
"With impeccable timing, Democratic state Rep. Rick Kriseman filed a bill Wednesday calling for a constitutional amendment permitting the recall of state officials, including the governor." "Scott goes off the rails".
"Lobbying income dipped nearly 4 percent last year".
House wants to overrule judges
"House unveils constitutional amendment that asks voters to give lawmakers final say over court rules." "Power struggle over courts could result in more control for Florida Legislature".
"Florida threatens to shred 2012 calendar".
Florida's flip-flopping fop
"New Senate President Mike Haridopolos is friendly, polite and politically ambitious - along the lines of Charlie Crist, albeit distinctly more conservative than the former Republican governor. And like Crist, the boyish, 40-year-old college history professor wants to be a U.S. senator and he's confident he won't make any of the missteps that befelled Crist." "New Fla. Senate president pushes conservative plan".
12 years of RPOF rule
"The curse of negative home equity Hundreds of thousands of South Floridians are underwater on their mortgages, which could have profound impact on the region’s economic recovery, or lack of." "The curse of negative home equity".
Second amendment stoopid
"Fla. dealer imprisoned 3+ years for machine guns".
Mike Thomas tries to gin up his sliding readership numbers this morning: "There is much confusion over Rick Scott's decision to derail high-speed rail. I will now clear up the confusion by compiling questions and comments guaranteed to anger both sides." "High-speed rail: Your questions answered".
Expect "a high-profile jab at Obama"
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Scott's reaction this week will show if he is more interested in his state's welfare or in taking a high-profile jab at President Barack Obama at the state's expense." "Let region build train".
A teabag for the first ten who show up
"U.S. Rep. Adams to hold listening session".
"In all the swirl and drama of events in Wisconsin and all the competing fiscal accounts, one thing is pretty undeniable: the crux of the fight isn't about reductions in benefits, it's about the future of collective bargaining for public sector employees. Killing collective bargaining rights doesn't do anything to solve the current fiscal crisis. That's why pretty much everyone sees that this is a push to break the unions. There's an active disagreement about whether that's a good thing. But everyone gets that that's what this is about."
It strains credulity to see this as anything but a political effort to destroy organizations that are critical foot soldiers for Democratic candidates at election time."The Big Tell".
Sunshine State News: "Teachers and Democratic legislators fired a shot across the bow of government reformers when they walked off their jobs last week in Wisconsin."
Public-employee unions and their Democratic Party allies are enraged at Republican Gov. Scott Walker's proposals to curb collective bargaining and to require that workers shoulder a larger share of their pension and health-care costs."Wisconsin Teacher Walkout Reverberates in Florida".
Florida Gov. Rick Scott also is calling for pension reform -- requiring a 5 percent employee contribution and introducing 401(k)-style plans for new workers.
Alarmed that such reforms are sprouting up across the country, public-employee unions and their Democratic allies are spoiling for a fight. The disruption in Wisconsin is part of a national strategy to halt unfavorable legislation -- apparently by any means necessary.
Though Florida is officially a "right-to-work" state, one union has demonstrated the ability to organize sizable protests by members.
Last year, the Florida Education Association mobilized teachers to pack legislative hearings and jam phone lines to protest Senate Bill 6, which would have abolished tenure in the K-12 system and tied pay to performance. Their efforts paid off when Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the measure.
Last week's walkout by Wisconsin teachers might re-stoke the FEA's fires as GOP lawmakers resurrect education reform legislation here. Gov. Scott's pension initiatives upped the ante by including tens of thousands of additional government workers.
With the incessant traditional media attacks attack on public employee benefits, together with the drooling union hatred of Florida's media company owners and their spineless editorial boards, isn't the time ripe for Florida to become the next Wisconsin?
Shills masquerading as newspaper editors
The League of Cities/Chamber of Commerce shills masquerading as newspaper editors embarrass themselves yet again by parroting anti-public employee talking points:
Gov. Rick Scott's proposal to make public employees in the Florida Retirement System pony up for their pensions has created quite a clamor in Tallahassee. All that noise shouldn't drown out what a respected think tank recently called "potentially a ticking time bomb for Florida citizens": the separate retirement plans that more than 200 cities finance and run for their employees."City pension time bombs".
This month the LeRoy Collins Institute, a nonpartisan research organization[*], warned that some cities have promised retirement benefits that "they cannot afford to keep."
Those benefits include health coverage and generous pensions. Dozens of Florida cities are paying $1 or more to retired police and firefighters for every $3 they're spending on working cops and firefighters, according to the Florida League of Cities. ...
Cities bear much of the blame for their predicaments. They've made extravagant promises in negotiating pension plans with employee unions. ...
Here's what's really crazy: One of the primary sources of money for police and fire pensions is a tax on property insurance premiums. If that tax generates more money than the previous year, state law forces cities to use the extra dollars to boost retirees' benefits instead of helping pay for what cities already owe. The League of Cities says that law, passed in 1999 under heavy lobbying from police and fire unions, has forced local governments to spend $400 million from the tax to sweeten benefits.
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*As we detailed on February 10 in "Collins Institute's Partisan Pension Report", the glossy ten page document includes a grand total of 8 footnotes, which expose the report's sources to be highly partisan, biased and unbalanced. This so-called "report" is little more than a one-sided farce generated for the purpose of providing cover to country club cranks who have a problem with employees receiving pensions. See, e.g., "FLA Politics: Orlando Sentinel embarrasses itself" and "The Orlando Sentinel editors are at it again".