"Powerful player enters fray over high-speed rail"
"A new and powerful player has entered the fray over high-speed rail in Florida."
The state Supreme Court is expected to rule Friday whether Gov. Rick Scott overstepped his authority by refusing the $2.4 billion in federal funding for the project, effectively killing the line between Tampa and Orlando. On Thursday, justices grilled lawyers representing Scott and a pair of state senators who filed suit, attempting to sort out the powers of the Legislature and governor in what could be a last gasp for rail advocates."State Supreme Court hears rail arguments".
However, "over the course of a 45-minute hearing, the justices repeatedly expressed reservations about weighing in on a dispute between legislators who authorized rail spending and a new governor who has decided it is a bad investment."
One justice, Barbara J. Pariente, said she "cannot clearly see the legal right" to bind the governor and future legislatures to complete the train."Justices seem reluctant to order Scott to take high-speed rail money". See also "Justices hear rail dispute" and "High-Speed Rail Suit Still Up in the Air".
Scott Maxwell "was impressed with [Ricky's] formal response to the legal challenge. Based on Scott's personal history, I just figured anytime he got anywhere near a courtroom, he'd instinctively plead the fifth."
"Taj Mahal" update
"Florida's taxpayers will not pay all of the bills for furnishing the posh new 1st District Court of Appeal building, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said." "Florida CFO rejects bills for furniture, photos at 'Taj Mahal' courthouse".
Sorry Ms. Bondi, but Florida required to implement HCR
"A federal judge said states should continue to implement the federal health care law championed by President Barack Obama as the suit moves to the U.S. Supreme Court." "Florida judge: States should move forward with federal health care law". See also "Vinson Orders Feds to Move Fast on Health-Care Law Appeal", "Florida judge: States should move forward with federal health care law" and "Judge: States must continue with Obama health overhaul".
"Florida's return to the environmental dark ages"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "For Florida's politicians, this ought to be elementary:"
Protect the environment because the environment drives Florida's economy — and because good stewards of the economy win elections."What's driving Florida's return to the environmental dark ages, the days before its growth laws of the 1980s, which began slowing developers' unbridled land grabs? Unfortunately, the errant belief among politicians — led by Florida's new governor — that the electorate's unlikely to embrace this simple fact:"
In fact, many state lawmakers are paying lip service to that notion, saying we need to safeguard what makes Florida unique because of our tourism and all the people who want to move here.
But get past the talk and here's what lawmakers actually are busy proposing: diluting the funding that water-management districts need to oversee projects, including Everglades restoration; weakening laws and departments that can check sprawl; laying the groundwork for selling environmentally sensitive lands; and halting land-preservation purchases.
Florida's environmental quality of life actually increases chances that companies and families would want to remain or relocate here.Much more here:"An environmental disaster".
See you in Havana
The Tampa Tribune editors "have never followed the foreign-policy logic of allowing flights to Cuba from Miami but not from Tampa, home to thousands of Cuban-Americans."
So when President Barack Obama recently decided to allow any airport that is capable of handling the immigration oversight to apply to host direct charter flights, we joined many other Tampa interests in welcoming the business opportunity. ..."The Miami monopoly".
But more contact is exactly what some people don't want. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Miami has said he is determined to find a way to limit the flights to the existing gateways of Miami, New York City and Los Angeles. Rubio argues that additional flights would additionally strengthen the Castro regime.
So far his efforts to frustrate a slightly more open attitude toward Cuba have failed. Unfortunately for Tampa-area residents with close family in Cuba, Rubio promises to keep trying to restore Miami's Florida monopoly.
This country's half-century attempt to isolate and impoverish Cuba must continue, it can be argued, if for no other reason than to express moral indignation at the heavy-handed one-party system and state-run economy.
The stronger argument, with revolution on the minds of information-hungry populations in Libya and many other unlikely places, is that contact with the outside world is a powerful enemy to a repressive regime.
Ricky starts by losing 1,600 jobs
"State Department of Health plan would cut 1,600 jobs".
The Tri-Rail comparison
"Gov. Rick Scott has pointed to state subsidies of Tri-Rail as a warning against high-speed rail. But is the comparison valid?" "Gov. Rick Scott raps Tri-Rail while rejecting high-speed rail funding".
"For years, private-school vouchers have been criticized as a drain on public school funding and a violation of church-state separation. But a new voucher bill is coming under fire for a whole new reason: Giving voucher providers special access to restricted state information." "New voucher bill 'smacks of favoritism,' critics say".
"Broward private schools benefit from vouchers".
Which side are you on?
In her latest column, Jackie Bueno Sousa starts out correctly - by noting that "Public union leaders are being unfairly blamed for the fiscal mess at many of our state and local governments" - but quickly falls into a black hole of nonesense; she continues:
Sure, compensation — particularly pensions and benefits — for many public employees is overly generous. No doubt some public unions have a stranglehold on the democratic process by essentially ensuring the success or failure of political candidates."Make union negotiations public".
Public employees receive "overly generous" pensions and benefits? Where is the evidence of this? This column, and the media generally, has become an echo chamber for the whining of cowardly public officials and their shills?
We have to ask what is wrong about a handful of public employees forming an association and chipping in money to support political candidates? That, after all is the sum and substance of what a public employee union activity is in Florida, yet journalists slam this basic first amendment activity in a pluralistic society as exerting a "stranglehold on the democratic process".
In a pluralistic society, which we profess to be, countervailing interest groups with naturally arise to serve as counterweights to other interest groups. In opposition to working people supporting political candidates with the temerity to favor radical ideas like defined benefit plans, we have delightful right wing groups like the Chamber of Commerce, teabaggers, the AIF, and many more. Feel free to pick the side you support, but don't whine about the fact that one side - public employees speaking through their labor organizations - have overcome overwhelming odds to improve their terms and conditions of employment.
"Gainesville businessman Edward Lee Dugger has admitted paying kickbacks to former Florida corrections officials to gain access to a prison canteen business that provides snacks and other items to inmates and visiting family members." "Gainesville businessman admits paying kickbacks to former Florida corrections officials".
Bring it on, Ricky
Related: "Rasmussen Poll Shows Scott Walker Flailing".
"The office of Gov. Rick Scott will now be charging for public records requests, under a new policy announced today." "Scott to charge for public records".
Will Florida's workers get the same support?
The Miami Herald editorial board is happy to support collective bargaining for employees who work out-of-state: "Gov. Scott Walker’s showdown with public employees in Wisconsin has turned from a necessary exercise in deficit reduction into a harsh union-busting maneuver that has more to do with politics than with fiscal responsibility."
Mr. Walker has insisted that in order to erase the state’s $3.6 billion deficit — coincidentally, the same as Florida’s — Wisconsin would not only have to slash the pay and benefits of public workers, but also strip the unions of the right to negotiate contracts for their members. That’s what has turned Wisconsin’s deficit shortfall into a political confrontation with nationwide repercussions."Going overboard in Madison".
Mr. Walker is following a conservative political blueprint other governors can copy if he’s successful, designed to weaken public unions that contribute mostly to Democrats. Yet it’s hard to see what is “conservative” about telling workers that they cannot sit down to negotiate with their own government. It’s anti-democratic and fundamentally unfair.
Most negotiations revolve around basic issues like working conditions, grievances over hours, vacations, sick leave, schedules and breaks and so forth. Stripping unions of the right to bargain over these issues won’t fix the state’s deficit, but it will demoralize union members and eventually thin their ranks.
Mr. Walker denies political motivation, saying he just wants to improve the state’s finances. Yet when unions made major concessions regarding bigger deductions from their paychecks for pensions and health benefits to offset reduced state outlays — amounting to an effective pay cut of around 7 percent — it was not enough to end the standoff with the governor and his allies in the Republican-controlled Legislature. They sense a once-in-a-generation chance to roll back union rights and cripple their political adversaries in one mighty power grab.
"Awake the State" to flop?
"Tuesday's 'Awake the State' protests might draw a combined crowd of 8,000 at sites across Florida, but organizers say the turnout in Tallahassee, when the Legislature opens, will be tiny. A permit request for the Leon County Courthouse grounds says "less than 100 people" are expected to attend the 10:30 a.m. event. It is one of 17 scheduled rallies protesting Gov. Rick Scott's proposed $5 billion in state budget cuts."
Meantime, at the Capitol, tea party groups will conduct a noon "Save Our State" rally in support of the governor. Among the confirmed speakers will be state Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island."'Awake the State' Slumbers in Tallahassee".
Inspired by the raucous public-employee protests in Wisconsin's capital, Florida's "Awake the State" campaign has been drumming up support via social-media sites for the past few weeks. March 8 was the designated rallying date, as it is opening day for the 2011 Legislature.
But Tallahassee protest organizers were caught napping when tea party groups pre-emptively reserved the old Capitol grounds, a favored location for large political gatherings of thousands of people.
The courthouse grounds, a much smaller venue two blocks away, can only accommodate about 100 persons, a county official said.
Stimulus kicking in
"Employers hired more workers in February than in any month since May last year and the unemployment rate fell to a near two-year low, raising hopes the economic recovery has gathered critical momentum." "Feb. payrolls surge, jobless rate near 2-year low".
Entrepreneurs in action
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Fewer scams, lower rates: End state's reputation as the national center of auto insurance fraud".
Obama shares stage with proto teabagger
"Eager to show some bipartisanship, President Barack Obama is sharing a stage in Florida with Jeb Bush, brother of the former president whose policies Obama blames for sending the nation's economy spiraling into a recession."
Recall how Jebbie,
said Obama's tendency to blame his brother's administration for problems, including the economic crisis, was "childish.""Obama to discuss education policy in Florida". Related: "Obama to discuss education policy in Florida". See also "President Obama, Jeb Bush to address Miami-Dade students". More: The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Unlikely duo puts focus on reform" ("there will be no man-hugs.")
Floridians know that sharing the stage with a proto teabagger like "Jeb!" will not engender bipartisanship, but will instead further embolden Florida's extremists.