"Come on down! First 5 cases get probation"
Fred Grimm: "The power boys in Tallahassee had made it clear that they want state government run like a business. The next logical step: Run Florida courtrooms like factories."
Powerful state Sen. J.D. Alexander (the Oliver Wendell Holmes of Lake Wales) floated his Judicial Workload Incentive Plan this week, a concept that seems novel only to someone unfamiliar with the piece-work pay offered by garment factories a century ago. Instead of dresses, judges earn extra by ripping through caseloads.Much more here: "Cash is poor incentive for justice".
Judges, lawyers and prosecutors were incredulous. “They’ll turn us into hucksters,” a Broward County judge complained to me Friday, too wary, amid an anti-judiciary frenzy, to allow his name to be published.
Alexander shrugged off objections. “I’m very serious about it,” he told Steve Bousquet, of the Herald/St. Pete Times Tallahassee bureau. “What we’re trying to do is create some incentives for the courts that are fair and reasonable and save us a lot of money.”
Alexander, with plenty of political juice as chairman of Senate Budget Committee, intends to fold an incentive pay plan into the state budget that sweetens the salary of trial court judges by an extra $12,000 a year. But only if the judges meet performance goals. ...
Alexander figures it would be cheaper to dangle wads of cash in the judges’ faces. Let old-fashioned greed get justice moving again.
With 12 grand in the balance, a judge might hear something quite persuasive in a trial lawyer’s objection to an irrelevant line of questioning. A motion for a continuance? Not so much.
A plea deal, in this coming era, will translate into a year’s worth of tuition at his kid’s private school. One can imagine courtroom specials: very short sentences for very quick and cost-effective pleas. “Today only! Come on down! First five cases get probation.”
The staid, sometimes-plodding march of justice process would give way to a frenzied rush. Something like that classic scene from the 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy, with Lucy and Ethel (imagine them in black judicial robes) going berserk, mouths stuffed full of confections, working the assembly line of a candy factory.
The Saint Pete Times editors: "In the surreal world of the Florida Legislature, the problem with the state's overburdened, underfunded court system is not that lawmakers give the courts too little money. It's that those darned judges just don't work hard enough. No wonder the latest hare-brained idea calls for paying judges big bonuses based on how many cases they close. If they get paid like car salesmen, maybe they will be motivated to sell more cars — oops, move more court cases. " "Bonuses are out of order".
More on "the Oliver Wendell Holmes of Lake Wales" from the Orlando Sentinel editors: "There's a coup brewing in Tallahassee. Some lawmakers — still stinging after the state Supreme Court struck three of the Legislature's flawed constitutional amendments from last year's ballot — have offered an array of proposals that would take authority and independence from the judiciary." "Clobbering the courts". Related: "Courts need funding fix".
Legislature "the utter Whore of Babylon"
Howard Troxler: "These are harsh words for a Sunday morning, but the occasion screams out for them. I take them from the Bible; please forgive me."
The Florida Legislature proved this past week, once and for all, that it is the utter Whore of Babylon."On Thursday afternoon, with greedy lip-smacking speed, the Legislature voted to relegalize a bygone and corrupt institution, outlawed in this state for more than two decades, known as 'leadership funds.' These "leadership funds" are campaign slush funds operated legally and officially by the leaders of the Legislature themselves".
It is now legal in our state to pay off the Legislature directly. Who says so? The Legislature.
This is not a joke.
This is not satire.
This is Florida — where the laws of our democracy are now openly, officially For Sale.
Legislators. Sworn to the sacred duty of writing the laws of a free people. Taking legal, direct payoffs from those seeking favorable laws.Read it all here: "Florida Legislature proves once and for all that it is for sale".
If you can swallow that, then your moral relativism knows no bounds.
Steve Bousquet: "Ed Buss doesn't look like a revolutionary. The low-key Midwesterner has taken the state Department of Corrections by storm as he sets about reforming and revitalizing the nation's third-largest prison system, a place long hostile to change and where outsiders are viewed with suspicion." "Ed Buss wastes little time changing Florida's Department of Corrections".
"High-stakes gamble by Scott"
"If Florida leaders refuse to carry out the new national health-care law, Uncle Sam is prepared to take charge on behalf of the state's consumers."
One year after President Barack Obama signed the health-care overhaul into law, federal officials are urging Florida and other reluctant states to shape it to meet their needs and to take advantage of millions of dollars of federal planning grants. Failure to participate, officials warned this week, means a loss of state control."Feds may act if Florida stalls on health-reform law".
Florida and other states, for example, must show by 2013 they are set up to provide a health-insurance exchange, an online service for consumers to compare coverage plans and shop for affordable rates. If states are unwilling or unprepared, the law requires U.S. officials to step in and make a federal-run exchange available for residents at the start of 2014.
But Florida Gov. Rick Scott — backed by fellow Republicans in the Legislature who strongly oppose "ObamaCare" — has refused $2 million in federal planning money and ordered state agencies not to implement the law. In addition, Florida has challenged the law in federal court, in a lawsuit filed before Scott was elected in November.
The standoff reflects an ongoing political debate and a high-stakes gamble by Scott and other critics, who are counting on Congress to repeal the law or federal courts to rule it unconstitutional.
Don't we just love our teachers
"Seventeen stock clerks earned $52,000 or more, while 18 grass cutters and three pest-sprayers were paid about $50,000 — more per day than most 10-year teachers." "In Broward schools, some laborers make more than longtime teachers".
Scott's policy designed to benefit his (wife's) bottom line?
"One of the more popular services at Solantic, the urgent care chain co-founded by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, is drug testing, according to Solantic CEO Karen Bowling."
Given Solantic's role in that marketplace, critics are again asking whether Scott's policy initiatives - this time, requiring drug testing of state employees and welfare recipients - are designed to benefit Scott's bottom line."Gov. Scott’s drug testing policy stirs suspicion".
The Palm Beach Post reported in an exclusive story two weeks ago that while Scott divested his interest in Solantic in January, the controlling shares went to a trust in his wife's name.
This raised a groundswell of concern and questions about his health policy initiatives, especially his push to move Medicaid into private HMOs. Solantic does not take Medicaid but does business with private Medicaid HMOs. The questions are growing louder with Scott's executive order on drug testing.
"Another huge presidential battle in Florida"
Adam C. Smith: "Get ready for another huge presidential battle in Florida."
In 2008, Obama was the first Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter to win more than 50 percent of the vote in Florida.Much more: "Democrats, GOP expect Florida to be a battleground again in 2012".
He won America's biggest battleground state by nearly 3 percentage points after launching the largest grass roots campaign Florida had ever witnessed, and outspending John McCain on TV ads roughly $36 million to $17 million. And that was in a national climate in which Obama was the candidate of change and longstanding GOP strongholds like Indiana and North Carolina went Democratic.
Winning Florida will take another herculean effort, and there's every sign that Obama and the Democratic National Committee intend to undertake it. The campaign had a stunning 600 paid staffers in Florida on Election Day 2010, and 2012 on-the-ground organizing is likely to start a year earlier this time.
"S. Fla buyers come out for real estate bargains in statewide open house".
The effect of Florida's "lower average wages"
"Even with its jobless rate falling to 11.5 percent, Florida is still tracking a huge 2.6 percentage points higher than the national average. That's better than a month ago, but it's still the kind of gap not seen since the wake of the 1970s recession."
Economists have long warned Florida would lag a national recovery. But was it supposed to be this far behind?Here's why - in short, Florida's economy is based on crap jobs:
In a State of the States report last week, Wells Fargo Securities cited 10 states that had both weak economic fundamentals and had undergone a severe recession. Three of them — Nevada, Rhode Island and Florida — were singled out as "likely to have the most protracted economic recoveries."
The housing bust and related implosion of the construction industry have been the single biggest albatross holding down any robust recovery.
- Missing the manufacturing rebound: Makers of automobiles, durable goods, electronics, and business equipment are ramping up again. Florida isn't invited to the party."Why Florida's unemployment rate is so much higher than national average".
- Trapped in a vicious cycle: With a higher unemployment rate than most states, many Floridians have less disposable income to spend at restaurants and shops. Those businesses then require fewer employees. That forces some to lay off workers or to close. Which leads to more unemployed.
- Lower average wages: Many of the newly created jobs pay less than the ones lost. Florida has lost construction, government and financial services jobs while it gained a little ground in retail, tourism and health care (primarily lower-paid home health aides and clinic workers). ...
Post recall circus
Myriam Marquez: "The best thing to emerge from the recall of Mayor Carlos Alvarez? An election in about 60 days." "Post recall: Let the circus begin".
"U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland told Big Bend residents Saturday he might have to vote for raising the federal debt ceiling, but he said conservative new Republicans in Congress will demand serious commitments to spending cuts and balancing the budget in return for their votes." "Southerland: Budget cuts necessary".
"Lobbyists pleading to keep their industries regulated"
The Sarasota Herald Trib editors: "You know that the anti-government clamor in the Florida Legislature has reached a fever pitch when lobbyists are pleading to keep their industries regulated."
The spectacle unfolding in this year's legislative session would be laughable if the consequences were not so dire for the state and its future."Even lobbyists worry about Legislature's rush to deregulate". Background: "Dorworth-backed measure would give Scott greater freedom to roll back regulation".
With businesses worried about the potential loss of government oversight, Floridians in general should be on high alert over lawmakers' plans to slash education, growth management and environmental protection.
"A sprint to see how low Florida can go"
Thomas Tryon: "Florida began its annual race to the bottom as usual — with a head start over most states."
With a constitution that prohibits both an income tax and an inheritance tax — and grants substantial property-tax breaks for homesteads — Florida has long had one of the lowest tax burdens of the 50 states."On taxes, state races to the bottom".
Florida has, in effect, run a marathon campaign to attract people and businesses by offering comparatively low taxes.
Now, first-term Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders are in a sprint to see how low Florida can go. ...
Florida's race to the budget bottom could be justified if there were compelling evidence that driving down state and local tax revenue translated into economic and social progress — or, if the state's taxes were out of line, on the high side, with national norms. But that evidence is lacking; Florida's taxes are only out of line on the low side. ...
So, when Florida's governor and Legislature say the state doesn't have enough money to fund vital services, what they're really saying is that Florida doesn't generate enough money.
Ricky to hand off another unfunded mandate
"Scott has proposed shifting a $4.4 million state pretrial intervention program to local public-safety officials, and separate bills pending in the Legislature would curb county-based pretrial release options." "State leaders may steer more inmates to local jails".
"The feds are investigating whether Hialeah’s mayor evaded taxes on loan repayments, allegedly in cash, from a Ponzi schemer." "The mayor and the Ponzi schemer: a loan story".