"Election seasons are always unpredictable in Florida, but 2012 is shaping up to be downright crazy."
Consider that legislative candidates already are opening up fundraising accounts unsure what their districts will look like by the summer of 2012."Floridians face crazy 2012 election".
Or that the Legislature will kick off its 2012 session in January, two months early, and just as Republican presidential candidates are poised to descend on the Sunshine state for what the national GOP considers to be a rogue primary.
And come August 2012, Republican activists in Florida may be juggling a crowded, high-profile U.S. Senate primary and an even higher-profile Republican National Convention in Tampa.
“No question it’s going to be an exciting time in Florida,’’ said Florida Republican Party Chairman David Bitner, who himself is juggling shifting scenarios ranging from the presidential primary date to how and when new political districts will be drawn.
Some Republicans are even talking about putting redistricting rules back on the ballot in January —or making that presidential primary officially meaningless and later holding party-run caucuses to allocate delegates.
Them lawyers shure use big words
"Bar Association wrangles with Legislature over balance of power". "Florida Lawyers, GOP Gird for Judicial Reform Battle".
"Abortion. Guns. Drugs. Vouchers. Supreme Court justices. Gambling. Tuesday's agenda in the Florida House and Senate is packed with legislation that would affect every Floridian." "Today in Tallahassee: Packed agenda in House, Senate".
Mica strides world stage
"U.S. Rep. John L. Mica of Winter Park co-chaired a mission to Afghanistan by a five-member congressional delegation last weekend, according to his Washington office." "Mica visits with Afghan President Karzai".
"Poorest and sickest Floridians" hit by RPOF cuts
"A budget hobbled by recession-era red ink began taking shape Monday in the state Senate, including proposed cuts to schools, Medicaid and programs used by some of the poorest and sickest Floridians." "Poorest, sickest, oldest poised for brunt of Florida Senate budget cut proposals".
Budget "showdowns between the two chambers"
"Early legislative budget proposals confirm one thing lawmakers have been warning about – cuts virtually across the board -- and portend showdowns between the two chambers over high-profile priorities such as health care and state worker pay." "State Senate, House differ on budget cuts". See also "Senate budget committees may cut billions", "House and Senate far apart in how to handle $3.75 billion budget gap", "Senate draft budget includes money for Miami port but not other items sought by Scott", "Senate schools budget would call for cuts after all" and "Initial Senate draft budget includes money for beaches, petroleum tanks".
"Incentive program for judges"
"Sen. Mike Fasano wants to remove $590,000 from the 1st DCA's budget, but Sen. John Thrasher says it will hurt the service to his constituents. Senators also look to remove an incentive program for judges in the budget proposal." "Fasano wants to send 1st DCA a message".
Entrepreneurs in action
"Prosecutors: Bank executives not easy to charge".
AIF says "Jump!"
"Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature, on a mission this spring to make the state easier on businesses, isn't just targeting regulations in Tallahassee."
Two weeks into the annual 60-day legislative session, multiple bills are advancing that aim to curb local government's authority to regulate businesses, too."Florida lawmakers aim to slash local regulations on businesses, too".
One measure, sought by the state's retailers, would prevent cities or counties from imposing laws to help workers recoup wages that have been wrongfully withheld by employers. Another, pushed by fertilizer manufacturers, aims to invalidate local rules restricting the sale and use of fertilizer. A third, for restaurants, is designed to block ordinances banning fast-food chains such as McDonald's from giving away toys with high-calorie, high-fat children's meals.
Dems "touched by Dorworth’s concern for union members"
"State Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, told the Florida House Appropriations Committee Monday he wants to 'empower' union members."
Labor union members have been contacting his office expressing their support for the “payroll protection” measure, which would end the practice of automatically deducting public-employee union dues from members’ paychecks. The bill analysis from House staff says it will make collecting union dues more difficult."Dorworth concerned about union members". See also "Alabama judge suspends union-deduction ban similar to Florida proposal".
Under the current system, public employees have a choice, Dorworth said. They can either join a union and watch their dues flow to candidates they don’t support, or they can risk being “kicked out” for refusing to support those candidates.
In public meetings held by two House committees and one Senate committee, no union member has made that argument.
Democrats on the panel asked Dorworth if he could describe the union members who told him they support the measure. He said he did not have that information available.
House Democratic leader Ron Saunders said he was touched by Dorworth’s concern for union members, but also noted that no union members have spoken in favor of it. So what’s the reason for this bill?
"HB 1311 by Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, would exempt Walton County from having to get permits from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for sea walls constructed after Hurricane Dennis in 2004. Walton County officials and environmentalists raise concerns about the effects of those sea walls on beaches and sand dunes." "Walton County local bill raises concerns for sea turtles statewide".
Democracy only for the wealthy
"Bills are moving through the Florida Legislature that opponents say would give wealthy special interests more influence but that proponents say would create more transparency in reporting campaign money. Another bill that would make it easier for the Legislature to amend the constitution, but harder for private citizens to do so, also is gaining steam."
On Monday, a state Senate committee approved a bill that would raise campaign contribution limits, now $500 for all campaigns, to $1,000 for municipal or county candidates or judges at all levels, $2,500 for legislative seats, $5,000 for Cabinet seats, and $10,000 for governor. ..."Lawmakers seek larger contributions in elections".
Another bill would tighten rules on citizen petition drives to put constitutional amendments on the ballot, including prohibiting paying petition gatherers based on the number of signatures they obtain, and causing signed petitions to expire after 30 months.
That could make it nearly impossible for a citizen group to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot, said Ellen Freidin, who managed last year's successful Fair Districts amendment drive.
But the bill would make it easier for lawmakers to bypass a court should it rule a ballot summary or title is vague or deceptive.
"If Sisyphus wore flip flops"
Fred Grimm: "The Senate Government Appropriations Committee, doing an end run around the governor Monday afternoon, budgeted $16 million for 12 beach restoration projects 'with Miami-Dade at the top of the list.' Of course, the allocation must now survive other committees, a vote by the full Senate — and a similar measure needs approval in the House. And then it must avoid the governor’s veto." "Governor’s budget makes sand disappear".
"In Tallahassee, we are turning into Libya"
Mike Thomas: "Florida legislators are declaring war on animal-rights groups."
They have been pushing a bill that would make it a first-degree felony to enter a farm and take pictures or videos without permission from the farmer. The maximum punishment would be a few decades in prison."Big Brother in Tallahassee moves into animal farms".
This is the same Legislature that was planning to imprison pediatricians for talking to parents about gun safety.
Overseas we are bombing Libya, while in Tallahassee, we are turning into Libya.
At the behest of special-interest groups, legislators are using the power of government to criminalize the behavior of opposing groups.
I find this more than a little frightening, as should anyone wary of Big Brother.
The wingnut who sponsored the bill now says it was an accident: "Sen. Jim Norman scales back bill that inadvertently criminalized farm photography" ("the Tampa Republican's legislation would have triggered a first-degree felony charge — the same level for rape or murder — for anyone who took photos or video of a farm or its animals without the property owner's consent. So photographers, journalists, law enforcement officers — even motorists pulling over to capture a pastoral roadside scene — could have been charged along with groups like Mercy for Animals or the Humane Society.") Related: "Bill is amended to remove prohibition against roadside photography of farms" and "Farm photos now only a misdemeanor in Norman’s bill".
RPOFer denies he's a crook
"With his one-time colleagues working in the Capitol across the street, former House Speaker Ray Sansom went on trial Monday for his role in an alleged scheme to build an airplane hangar for a developer, a charge his attorney vehemently denied." "As Ray Sansom case opens, defense vigorously denies charges". See also "Defense, prosecution heard in Sansom trial".
Choice under attack
"House set to debate series of bills designed to restrict abortion".
Credit to the Trib for publishing this
"It was a warm spring Saturday when dozens of immigrant girls and women leapt to their deaths - some with their clothes on fire, some holding hands - as horrified onlookers watched the Triangle Shirtwaist factory burn."
The March 25, 1911, fire that killed 146 workers became a touchstone for the organized labor movement, spurred laws that required fire drills and shed light on the lives of young immigrant workers near the turn of the century."100 years after Triangle fire, horror resonates".
The 100th anniversary comes as public workers in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere protest efforts to limit collective bargaining rights in response to state budget woes. Labor leaders and others say one need only look to the Triangle fire to see why unions are crucial.
"Courts declare financial emergency"
"Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles T. Canady, in letters to Gov. Rick Scott and legislative budget leaders, has asked to borrow $72.3 million from other state funds to keep courts operating through the current budget year that ends June 30." "State courts declare financial emergency, seek help". See also "Fla. courts, clerks may get emergency $90 million to keep them going this year".
"Weakening consumer protections to benefit industries"
"With only one in five Floridians still tethered to a traditional telephone, a Senate committee gave fast-track approval Monday to legislation that would completely deregulate land lines against the wishes of AARP and consumer advocates." "In rush to deregulate, Senate tackles basic phone service".
State law limiting rate hikes on the way out
"The Senate's utilities committee unanimously approved a bill Monday that would allow land line telephone companies to raise rates by as much as they want and strip regulators of their authority to help consumers with bill complaints. The bill, SB 1524 by Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland, would repeal a state law limiting rate hikes and revoke most of the Public Service Commission's remaining power over the telecommunications sector, which has been scaled back over the years." "Bill allowing phone rate hikes clears Senate panel". Related: "Land Line Deregulation Moves Ahead in Senate".
Ricky's Education Secretary outa there
"Florida education secretary said he’ll step down this year".
NRA says "Jump!"
"A bill backed by the National Rifle Association that strengthens financial penalties against cities and counties for enacting tougher gun laws than the state requires gained momentum on Monday. ... The financial penalty was reduced from the originally proposed $5 million through an amendment to both chambers' version of the bill. " "Gun law pre-emption fine bills advance".
"Pre-K program getting results"
"Pre-K program getting results, despite budget woes".
"A warning to Florida"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "The weeks of national furor last year didn't matter much to Arizona, which passed a heavy-handed anti-immigration law anyway. Now that the price tag is becoming clear - tens of millions of dollars in lost tourism business - Arizona is starting to see things differently. That state's reassessment should be a warning to Florida."
Florida lawmakers are contemplating their own new anti-immigration laws even as Florida's tourism-driven economy sputters. Florida needs tourists far more than it needs a crackdown on illegal immigrants."Arizona's immigration law doesn't travel well: Tourism drop-off a warning for Florida".
The chief proposal moving through Florida's House of Representatives is less harsh than the law Arizona passed last year. The bill, pushed by Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, merely would allow police to check someone's immigration status if they already are the subject of a criminal investigation, and also requires all employers to use a federal database that confirms new hires are eligible to work.
Although Rep. Snyder has tempered the bill in the face of concerns from industry leaders, it is still wrongheaded - and the worries about the impact on tourism are just one reason why.
"A divided Florida Innocence Commission voted Monday to endorse a controversial bill that would set minimum standards for police lineups." "Divided commission endorses bill on police lineups". See also "Battle over wrongful convictions pits GOP legislators versus law-enforcement".
"2003 all over again"
Michael Mayo: "Oliphant's $75K salary a slap to teachers".
"Adam Putnam on Renewable Energy, Libya, Immigration Reform, More".
"Former state CFO Alex Sink, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate who lost to Rick Scott in November, will be speaking at a Catholic university later this month. The invitation comes despite taking a number of positions against Church teachings on core issues, including abortion and allowing same-sex couples to adopt children." "Abortion Supporter Alex Sink to Speak at Catholic University".
The Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board: "Containing the costs of Florida's $20 billion Medicaid program while ensuring an acceptable quality of health care for the state's poor residents are two of the most pressing — and difficult — challenges facing the Legislature." "Medicaid reform that might work".
Hasner laff riot
"Hasner exploring Senate run in race defined by Rubio".
"Home sales rise"
"South Florida home sales rise in February".
"Lynn 'obviously doesn't know what she's talking about'"
"State Sen. Evelyn Lynn thinks the Legislature should consider suspending the popular prepaid college tuition program that has served hundreds of thousands of Floridians — mostly because, Lynn said, she's worried taxpayers would be vulnerable if the program ran into financial trouble."
But Stanley G. Tate, one of the foremost experts on the prepaid plan, says Lynn "obviously doesn't know what she's talking about.""Florida's popular prepaid college tuition plan financially healthy, report shows". See also "Senator downplays proposed suspension of Florida Prepaid program".
"Deeper property tax cuts"
"A move to give all Florida property owners a deeper property tax cut continued to gather steam in the Florida House Monday as a committee voted to put the measure on the ballot as early as 2012. The bill, approved by the House Community & Military Affairs Subcommittee [Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, is the bill’s sponsor in the House], would give commercial property owners and those with investment homes in Florida, a tax break that would match the one residential property owners now have under the Save Our Homes provisions of the state constitution."
If approved by voters, the maximum increase in the assessed value of commercial and non-homestead property would go from 10 to 3 percent. First-time home buyers would get a one-time $200,000 tax credit and all other homeowners would not see their taxes rise unless their property values increased."House wants voters to decide on property tax cuts".
The proposal, in effect, would give voters the option of enacting the deep property tax cuts sought by Gov. Rick Scott, who this year called for a $1.4 billion reduction in property taxes. Legislators have said they are unlikely to agree to it because it would require deeper cuts than they are prepared to make in the face of a $3.8 billion budget deficit.
But if voters approve the measure, economists predict the change will result in $231 million in revenue losses to cities and counties in the first year and as much as $1.2 billion in three years.
Billionaire car dealer pulls strings in Miami-Dade
"Three of the leading candidates for Miami-Dade County mayor threw their support Monday behind an eight-point reform plan proposed by billionaire businessman Norman Braman, who led the successful recall of former mayor Carlos Alvarez, as the race for a new mayor picked up steam and county commissioners tried to regain their footing after last week’s stunning recall vote." "Mayor candidates back Braman reform push".
The tuxedo crowd
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "The 2010 list of tax-free items had some problems. Diapers were included but staplers were not. Umbrellas were also taxed, but tuxedos were not. We would remind legislators that parents and college students need such taxable items as paper, computers and staplers." "Sales-tax holiday benefits parents, economy".