"Florida’s budget continues to bleed red ink."
State economists forecast Friday that Florida’s budget shortfall will grow yet again – now by about $135 million. That could bring next year’s gap to more than $3.75 billion."The new forecast just makes a bleak budget year all the bleaker."
It means that schools, prisons, courts, healthcare for the poor and elderly, environmental programs and road building programs face even more cuts and have little chance of being kept whole when compared to the current budget year, which expires June 30."Florida’s budget woes worsen". See also "State economists gather and revenue estimates don't look good", "Weekly Roundup: Budget Gap Goes Backward", "Florida's budget shortfall grows", "State has less money to spend next year", "Chance of tax cuts dims" and "Economists widen state budget gap by $135 million".
The shortfall also has political ramifications for Gov. Rick Scott, who pledged to deeply cut taxes and fees by about $2.4 billion. Legislators say they just can’t do that.
While we were sleeping ...
"Emergency workers extracted the officer from the car and transported him to Orlando Regional Medical Center." "Orlando cop pulled from crushed car after being pinned beneath tractor-trailer | Video".
Ivy leaguers visit third world country
"Harvard students spend spring break tending Apopka farm fields".
Growing Latino population doesn't like the GOP
"The share of Hispanics living in Florida grew by almost 60 percent over the past decade as the percentage of white residents declined slightly and the proportion of blacks and Asians inched up, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Census." "Share of Latinos in Fla. up by 60 percent". See also "South Florida leading national census trend".
"A recent poll out of California found an uphill battle for Republicans hoping to make inroads with Latinos, the largest and fastest growing minority in the United States." "Poll Finds Latino Voters Have 'Widely Negative' Views Of GOP".
Florida Prepaid College program split
"Rep. Marlene O'Toole, who oversees the House's higher education spending, said she's opposed to her Senate counterpart's proposal to cut off enrollment in the Florida Prepaid College program." "House, Senate split on halting tuition plan".
"Teachers face a near seismic shift"
"Florida's 170,000 public school teachers face a near seismic shift in their professional lives with passage of a far-reaching merit-pay bill." "Teacher merit pay: What you should know". See also "Weekly Roundup: Merit Pay Moves Forward".
RPOFers want their "leadership funds"
"The House State Affairs Committee on Friday recommended that the full chamber vote to override former Gov. Charlie Crist's veto of a controversial campaign finance bill that restores so-called leadership funds." "Republicans push for veto override".
How desperate can the GOP get?
"President Trump? Billionaire considering 2012 run".
RPOFer at work
"Damon Chase is one of the most prominent attorneys in Seminole County. His clients include Jim Greer, ousted chairman of the Florida GOP, and Rep. Chris Dorworth, the man slated to become Florida's House speaker in 2014." "Man arrested a dozen times is now prominent Fla. lawyer".
Entrepreneurs in action
"U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson says some of Florida's worst tax cheats are already in prison. The state's senior senator said today that Florida led the nation with the most prison inmates committing tax fraud with 8,777 bogus claims in the 2009 tax year. Nelson said more than $39 million was refunded on the fraudulent claims." "Nelson wants to clamp down on tax cheating inmates".
The Sarasota-Herald Tribune editors: "Yesterday's protest against immigration-related bills pending in the Florida Legislature didn't overwhelm the state capital. The crowd of protesters was relatively small, compared with the emotions and divisions generated by the mere mention of immigration policies and practices. Nevertheless, there are encouraging signs that the political debate, the emergence of valid concerns about an 'Arizona-style' approach and the recognition of competing interests have moderated the pursuits of many legislators." "Wiser course on immigration". Related: "Senate proposal calls for Florida to bill feds for immigration costs". Related: "Immigration bill opponents say GOP lawmakers are pushing it for ''political reasons''".
Dems think the RPOF could lose at least 5 seats
"The decennial re-mapping of all 435 congressional districts in the country (aka redistricting) is a very complicated process. Every state does it its own way, and the process is highly dependent on local elected officials whose names few people know and who, oftentimes, aren’t exactly answerable to the public. ... The number one ranked state is considered the most important redistricting battleground in the country."
1. Florida: In no state is more at stake. That’s because Republicans currently hold a ridiculous 19-to-six edge in the congressional delegation of this swing state, and voters in November passed constitutional amendments aimed at reining in the legislature’s ability to gerrymander. If those rules stick, Democrats think Republicans could lose upwards of five seats in the coming years. If they don’t, the GOP will try to draw the state’s two new districts as Republican-leaning and hope to expand its huge majority even further."The top 10 states to watch in redistricting". Related: "Census Data Blur Political Lines in Florida".
"The usual garbage"
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Tampa voters should brace themselves over the weekend for the usual garbage that has come to pass as campaigning in the closing hours of an election." "Flying mud mars election".
Randy Schultz: "Ernie George found himself Thursday in an unfamiliar position - begging before the Florida Legislature."
Twelve years ago, Mr. George was one of those calling the shots. A longtime stalwart in the police union - he was the statewide boss [sic] at one point - Mr. George was riding high in March 1999. He and other leaders in the police and firefighter unions had struck a deal the previous year with Jeb Bush: Agree to sign a bill forcing cities to fatten [sic] police and fire pensions, and we'll endorse you for governor and turn out the vote. ..."Getting rousted from political beat they once walked".
Three days ago, however, Mr. George appeared as an outsider before the Government Affairs Committee of the Florida House. There's a new Republican governor, as there was in 1999, and the GOP enjoys even larger majorities in the House and Senate, but it's a different era with a different attitude. For one thing, the Police Benevolent Association endorsed Alex Sink for governor. For another, these days in Tallahassee, public employee unions - and their pensions - are a problem, not a political base.
Don't let the door hit you in the derriere
"What's happening, experts say, is that the waves of retirees — largely non-Hispanic whites from the Northeast — who sustained the [South Florida] region's vast condominium communities have dried up. Instead, this generation's Social Security set is opting for Arizona, the west coast of Florida, North Carolina and other destinations that seem to offer the serenity once promised by southeast Florida." "Retirees picking other areas key to demographic changes".
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam kept a campaign promise last week when he appeared before the state Department of Education to urge support of legislation that would move the $600 million school nutrition program to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Despite the grumbling of some education board members, Agriculture's takeover of the school lunch and breakfast programs would be a natural fit." "Agriculture and school nutrition".
"He's not quite in the race to challenge Sen. Nelson and get his old job back ("I am considering it"), but he sure sounds like a candidate." "Is LeMieux in the race? Maybe".
"Packing Tech-9s along with rosary beads"
"If the National Rifle Association’s Marion Hammer wanted the Florida Legislature to require every citizen to own a gun, it probably wouldn’t be long before nuns would be forced to pack Tech-9s along with their rosary beads." "Carrying gun rights to dangerous extreme".
RPOF pushes "tax on salaries" to fill budget gap
"Some 655,000 public employees would contribute 5 percent of their pay to the state's pension plan".
Democrats and union officials Thursday called the 5 percent contribution a 'tax on salaries,' noting state workers haven't had a general pay raise since 2006. Pension payments, coupled with proposed hikes in health insurance coverage, will hurt, unions said. "State workers, teachers to pay 5 percent to pension fund under House proposal".
The committee approved the pension rewrite on a 9-5 vote, with Democrats unanimously opposed. It is expected to pull $1.3 billion into the state treasury, easing a budget shortfall three times that size.
Steve Bousquet on Former Gov. Reubin Askew and his friend, Judge Joseph Hatchett:
Both men are upset by current legislative efforts to reshape the judiciary by creating two Supreme Courts, abolish judicial nominating panels and require a 60-percent threshhold in future merit retention votes for appeals judges."The inseparable bond of former Gov. Reubin Askew, Joseph Hatchett".
"The feeling in the Legislature is that the court system is their enemy," Askew said. "It bothers me."
Askew, who served 12 years in the Legislature, said he still cannot believe today's presiding officers — the House speaker and Senate president — have the power to fire every unelected senior staff member.
Free Market fight for right to dump sewage into streams
"Free Market Florida launches battle against EPA water standards".
"Securing city and county business at all costs"
"Caribbean cruises, NASCAR races, Disney vacations, expensive jewelry: all were lavished on public officials by a Wellington equipment company determined to secure city and county business at all costs, Palm Beach County State Attorney Michael McAuliffe charged Friday." "13 arrested in Palm Beach County corruption case".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Florida Medicaid reform will need reforming: Don't just expand managed care". See also "As Medicaid privatization moves through House, Broward County brings concerns".
RPOFer gets his jury
"A jury of four women and two men will decide the fate of Ray Sansom, the former House speaker accused of grand theft and conspiracy in budget dealings the state says he disguised to benefit political ally Jay Odom." "Jury seated for Ray Sansom's trial". See also "Update: 6-member jury selected in Sansom trial". Related: "Crist to testify in Sansom case".
West feels threatened
"Speaking to a full house of 600-plus at the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches, the [disgraced] retired Army lieutenant colonel said China's military and economic expansion pose a direct threat to the United States." "Allen West Takes On China, D.C. Bureaucrats".
Rail is dead
"After spending weeks on life support, Florida's high-speed rail project came to a definitive halt Friday when Amtrak officials told Sen. Bill Nelson they will not pursue a bullet train in the state."
The reason: There's not enough time."Florida's rail hopes end as Amtrak drops out of potential bid".
The company said it could not meet the April 4 deadline set by the federal government for applications for $2.4 billion in federal money it had planned to award Florida before Gov. Rick Scott turned it away last month. Scott said he believed the project would be a burden on Florida taxpayers.
Rail advocates had hoped Amtrak and a coalition of local governments, including Tampa, Orlando, Lakeland and Miami, could attempt to win the funds to build an 84-mile line between Tampa and Orlando.
Now even Nelson, who called the plan a "Hail Mary" pass, says rail is dead.
Thank you, Mr. Obama
"Survey: Vacation Home Market on the Rebound". Related: "LaHood editorial poses questions for Scott".
When wingnuttery collides with state public records laws
"As Gov. Rick Scott’s team increasingly relies on social media to drive debate on his legislative agenda and deliver an unfiltered message to supporters, the 21st century technology is colliding with state public records laws."
Scott and his team have posted 151 messages on Twitter and received thousands of comments on 52 separate Facebook page posts in the 10 weeks since he’s taken office."Scott uses social media to sell his agenda".
But Scott’s staff has struggled with how to handle those messages: Should each post be catalogued? Must the office record every Facebook comment from the public before the original poster deletes it? Can comments be deleted?
Now elected, Scott disses teabaggers
"A battle that's shaping up in Tallahassee could pit state Tea Party activists against Gov. Rick Scott and Las Vegas casino lobbyists, and state legislators against The Seminole Tribe of Florida."
The fate of a bill introduced to allow Las Vegas-style, non-Indian casino gambling in Florida could shape the creation of hundreds of jobs and determine whose pockets and coffers millions of dollars of potential gambling revenue will land."Tea Party, Scott at odds over expanding non-Indian casinos".
Scott indicated in January he was open to allowing casino gambling resorts in Florida despite indicating during his campaign he opposed relying on gambling for state revenue.
Earlier this month, two state senators filed legislation that would allow five Las Vegas-style casino hotels in Florida, a measure the Seminole Tribe of Florida said it would oppose.
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Legendary newspaper columnist Mike Royko once suggested that Chicago’s slogan be changed to 'Where’s Mine?' It’d be an equally apt motto for Miami Beach politicians, whose self-promoting use of freebie tickets sends an arrogant message of entitlement." "No freebies for pols".
But firefighter wages are unjustified?
"Former county manager George Burgess, who stepped down Thursday, will get hundreds of thousands of dollars in severance, health insurance, and monthly expenses, under his employment contract." "Outgoing county manager gets pay and benefits package".