"The Florida Chamber of Commerce seems to be preparing for trouble."
Late last week, as liberal and labor groups planned rallies around the state to coincide with the start of the legislative session and some Central Florida teachers protested outside Republican lawmakers’ offices, the Chamber began running ads raising the specter of Wisconsin-style protests."What’s scaring the Chamber? (Updated)".
On Tuesday, as protests unfolded peacefully (including two in Tallahassee, along with a tea party counter-rally), a post on the Chamber’s website again warned of looming “union activity,” complete with the image of the billionaire boogeyman, financier George Soros ...
Scott's "very dangerous role
"As Florida Gov. Rick Scott reorganizes health agencies, cuts spending and pushes for new free-market health policies, his ownership of Solantic, the urgent care chain, increasingly poses conflict of interest questions."
Solantic co-founder Karen Bowling says Scott has taken steps to distance himself from the chain. He stopped regular business calls with her after he was elected."Scott's health policy adviser Michael Cannon, an economist with the Cato Institute in Washington, favors giving consumers health vouchers that they would use either as cash for direct-pay medical care or to buy insurance."
"I don't talk to him anymore. Not since November. Really not much since April," Bowling said.
Scott left the privately held company's board of directors in January 2010, during his campaign.
But the most important step the governor must take to avoid a conflict of interest, some ethics experts say, is to divest his Solantic interests.
In January, Scott did transfer his Solantic stock - to his wife. ...
Scott's efforts to distance himself appear to be designed to meet the letter of Florida ethics laws, if not the spirit.
They may not succeed if challenged, warned legal and ethics expert Marc Rodwin, a law professor at Suffolk University who is the author of several books on health care and conflicts of interest.
The possible effect on Solantic and similar clinics could be huge, said Rodwin, the legal ethics expert."Conflict of interest? Gov. Rick Scott shifts clinics to his wife".
"You have a major owner-operator of a set of clinics on the state level, and a major policy figure on a state level, making major changes that affect whether that kind of business will thrive or not, what their competition will be, and really reforming the whole health sector," Rodwin said. "That's in my view a very dangerous role."
It will be up to the Florida Commission on Ethics to decide whether Scott has a conflict of interest.
The commission has nine members. Five are gubernatorial appointees. None is a Scott appointee, but there is one vacancy that Scott may soon fill. Others will open this summer.
Public employees at work
"Fort Lauderdale rescuers aid gunshot victims, fight fire".
"Sugar-coating the pro-business agenda"
"Nothing could sugar-coat the pro-business agenda hurtling through the Florida Legislature like a fresh dose of ethics reform."
Florida now has a self-professed CEO governor in Rick Scott who used the word "jobs" 34 times in his State of the State speech last week. The first bill the Florida House passed was a measure Associated Industries of Florida was clamoring for, to shrink unemployment benefits and cut unemployment compensation taxes on employers."Spoonful of ethics helps Florida Legislature's business agenda go down".
Large and well-financed business groups and politically active corporations typically get a lot of what they want every year in Tallahassee. And in bad economic times, when voters say they want lawmakers to focus on creating jobs, their influence is Super-Sized.
That was then
Lucy Morgan: "Jim King spent more than 20 years of his life helping Republicans gain control of the Legislature, but he never adopted the extreme positions of either camp. He was the last of a breed that could swing votes with a heartfelt speech made on the floor in the midst of battle." "When the Senate was less bitter place".
"High-stakes and murky debate"
"Florida congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle have waded deeper into the high-stakes and murky debate over water quality standards that federal environmental regulators are imposing on the state."
Rep. Tom Rooney, a Palm Beach County Republican pushing a provision that would effectively block the rules by stripping the EPA of money to enforce them, urged the agency’s boss to consider a compromise."Lawmakers caution EPA on setting standards for state".
“I want to be the environmental congressman for my district,” Rooney told EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson at a House Agriculture Committee hearing on Thursday. “But I also represent a lot of farmers. I just want to get us to a point where the farmers, the chamber of commerce, and [environmental groups] can all sit down and try to come to a number that’s not just EPA’s number.”
The same day, Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat with solid support from environmentalists but who is facing a tough reelection campaign in 2012, sent a letter to Jackson, pressing for EPA to “expeditiously’’ order up an independent review of the agency’s proposed hard caps on two key nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorous.
Michael Mayo: "Every time Gov. Scott speaks, my shrinking wallet trembles." "Hey governor: What's the point of tax cuts if insurance rates skyrocket?".
"Buchanan unlikely to seek Senate seat".
"Scott said he was excited"
"The Florida Senate approved a teacher merit pay bill Thursday that overhauls how teachers are evaluated and paid, tying both to their students' performance on standardized exams." "Florida Senate passes teacher merit-pay bill". See also "story".
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Gov. Rick Scott rejected funding for high-speed rail in Florida because he didn't believe the private ridership study that projected it would operate at a profit."
He also didn't trust the federal promise that state taxpayers were not at risk. He didn't believe business leaders that it would be an economic boon. He had no faith in the construction bids that would have come from private companies."A narrow train of thought".
His inflexible skepticism of rail is celebrated by his supporters as proof he has the courage of his convictions. A conviction unaffected by all contradictory evidence also suggests arrogance.
"Feds give Fla. new shot at high-speed rail money as Scott delays SunRail project". More: "Feds plan to give away rail funds; lawmakers still hopeful". See also "High-speed rail in Florida still barely alive".
Another fine RPOFer
"A co-defendant in the criminal case against former Florida House Speaker Ray Sansom now has agreed to testify for the prosecution. Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs said on Friday that Bob Richburg, former president of Northwest Florida State College, agreed to enter a pretrial diversion program and take the stand against Sansom and co-defendant Jay Alan Odom, a developer and Sansom's friend."
Sansom, a Destin Republican, then took a six-figure position at the college on the day he was sworn in as speaker in 2008. He later stepped down from the speakership as fellow Republicans were readying to oust him."Co-defendant to testify against ex-House speaker". See also "Ray Sansom case shocker: Ex-college president flips on him, developer".
"Repeal gym-class requirement, lawmakers urge".
"Attack ads and partisan politics"
"Tampa's mayoral race focuses on attack ads and partisan politics".
"Selling Florida as the cheapest state"
"Former Florida Gov. Bob Graham has been mostly silent about the proposals of men who have succeeded him in the office he left in 1987."
But Friday he openly criticized Gov. Rick Scott’s plans to cut education funding, eliminate money for Florida Forever and dismantle the state agency that oversees growth management."Former Gov. Graham slams Scott over education".
“This idea of selling Florida as the cheapest state — well that’s what we’ve got now,’’ Graham said in a lengthy telephone interview with the St. Petersburg Times. “To drive it (costs) down at the expense of young people’s education is wrong.’’
“Florida is a wonderful place to live. But it is a fragile place and we have to keep investing in the things that will retain that high quality of life.’’
Graham, 74, said he fears measures proposed by Scott and supported by the Republican-led Legislature will not only damage education and the quality of life for Floridians, but hurt efforts to attract new business.
Randy Schultz: "There is no credible case for two state supreme courts". The Saint Petersburg Times editors: "Bad idea to split up high court".
About them Jeb-jobs
"With a state budget hole prompting talk of layoffs and program cuts, a Senate panel Friday demanded Scripps Florida justify the hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money that has flowed to the Jupiter bioresearch center." "Lawmakers tell Scripps to show them jobs that justify state's investment in its biotech research".
"2011 legislative summary". See also "Today in Tallahassee: Opening week ends with talk of the budget".
"More than $1 billion from a program to help Florida homeowners pay their mortgages is being held up in Tallahassee despite assurances that it would be available statewide last month. The first batch of money from the federal Hardest Hit program - $418 million - was awarded to the state more than a year ago." "Gov. Scott’s 'mixed signals’ are keeping $1 billion from struggling homeowners".
Ricky's jobs czar
"Senators got their first look at a sweeping rework proposed for Florida's economic development programs Friday -- a plan to merge agencies and recruitment efforts under one person: the Commissioner of Jobs." "Jobs czar would head Florida economic development; critics say plan amounts to payola".
The Out of Towners
Florida Senate Budget Committee Chairman JD "Alexander's committee on Friday unanimously approved his bill (SB 298). It would let cities with populations of 500 or less hold public meetings up to five miles outside city limits." "Out-of-town meetings allowed by Fla. Senate bill".
"GOP strategist applauds Gov. Scott, Reps. Rooney, West -- and Mica". "Karl Rove: Obama 'Lies' About Health Care".
Oh Mandy ...
"As part of a federal inquiry into former state Sen. Mandy Dawson, an FBI investigator this week collected the Fort Lauderdale Democrat's oaths of office she signed in 2002 and 2004." "FBI collects oaths of office of former Florida Sen. Mandy Dawson".
Teabaggers pulling RPOF strings
"Tea party's clout in Tallahassee is considerable".
"A setback to Gov. Rick"
"Top officials overseeing Florida prisons said Friday they will not lay off correctional officers as part of this year's $3.6 billion budget crunch, dealing a setback to Gov. Rick Scott's plan to overhaul the system by firing hundreds of those workers." "Florida prisons officials want to trim budget through attrition, not layoffs".
That democracy thing
Howard Troxler: "Can too much 'direct democracy' actually hurt us?".
Never mind the golf courses
"Legislators withdraw bills that would put golf courses in state parks". Scott Maxwell: "Arnold Palmer helps sink nutty plan for Jack Nicklaus golf courses in state parks" ("during a session where lawmakers are talking about cutting funding to veterans, schools, the disabled and the sick, they were also asking taxpayers to help Nicklaus finance fancy new golf courses.")
It’s a very old game"
Fred Grimm: "Gifts to charity is another way to bribe".
Stop the madness
"Washington called on Cuba to release U.S. contractor Alan Gross after he was sentenced to 15 years for crimes against the state." "U.S. rejects conviction of contractor by Cuba".
"Students on free or reduced lunch don't test as well".
That was fast
"Will Weatherford's rise to next House speaker is swift".
"Penchant for operating outside public scrutiny"
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Considering his approach to Florida's Sunshine Laws, Gov. Rick Scott has a businessman's penchant for operating outside public scrutiny and is showing an unfortunate tendency toward secrecy." "Don't put government behind closed doors".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Sunshine Sunday: The more Gov. Scott restricts public access, the longer it will take to learn of learn of waste, mistakes and abuse". Related: "Fla. governments improve in public records audit".
Can't afford the beach
"No money for beach renourishment in Scott's budget".
RPOFer protests he's "not the death angel"
"Lawmaker: "I'm not the death angel. Somebody had to do this."".
"Florida the epicenter for drug trafficking"
The Palm Beach Post editors: "It took the Legislature a decade to confront Florida's prescription-drug crisis. It took a few legislators one morning to begin reversing that progress."
Lax pain clinic regulations made Florida the epicenter for prescription-drug trafficking. Gov. Scott and House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, citing privacy concerns, are behind the bills pushed by committee Chairman Robert Schenck, R-Spring Hill. This week, Gov. Scott turned down an offer of $1 million from Purdue Pharma, maker of highly popular and highly addictive oxycodone, to run the database. Rep. Cannon said the monitoring program would create "a great big database full of people for whom it is too late.""Cannon offers no solution: Speaker's idea to ban doctors from dispensing narcotics would not work". Related: ""House bill would undo efforts of last two years to crack down on Florida pill mills, critics say".
The Sun Sentinel editorial board: "State leaders flub efforts to curb illegal pill mills".
Douglas C. Lyons thinks the Florida Clemency Board has been unfairly tagged as racist; they are in his view, merely "a collegial collection of rightward-leaning Republicans who, with little discussion and obviously not much thought, unanimously approved an administratively backward, culturally biased and morally bankrupt policy initiative that disproportionately impacts black Floridians." "Florida felons in colorblind bind".
"The Senate's major oil spill recovery legislation changed significantly in a budget committee Friday, its last stop before the full chamber could consider the proposal as soon as next week." "Oil spill recovery bill evolving".
"Finish what Ron Klein started"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Needed: Disaster insurance: Someone needs to finish what Ron Klein started in Congress".
"Citizens reform effort touted as good for environment would raise rates up to 25 percent". See also "Amendment would prohibit Citizens Property Insurance from covering near-shore homes".
"If the polls are right and Carlos Alvarez and Natacha Seijas get the boot on Tuesday, an array of questions remain about how and when the jobs of mayor and commissioner will be filled." "If pols get the boot in recall, what happens next?". Related: "Miami-Dade Commissioner Seijas, facing recall vote, goes on spending spree with office funds".
"A federal appeals court has agreed to act swiftly in considering a Florida judge's ruling that President Obama's health care overhaul is unconstitutional." "Appeals court speeds up health overhaul appeal".