"Republican leaders in the Florida Legislature on Tuesday asked the federal government to sign off on a pair of voter-approved constitutional amendments requiring lawmakers to draw nonpartisan political districts. The move comes three months after Gov. Rick Scott drew partisan criticism — and was quickly sued — for quietly withdrawing the application submitted by former Gov. Charlie Crist."
Here's the kicker:
[The] authors of Amendments 5 and 6 said the new request “contains a number of statements that are clearly intended to undermine the intent” of the changes. The application explains that the changes could potentially hurt minority voting strength, but would not if “properly interpreted.”"Florida restarts process to clear voter-approved redistricting standards".
Former state Sen. Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat now affiliated with Fair Districts Now, the group that put the questions on the statewide ballot, said in a statement that he would likely file concerns with the U.S. Department of Justice.
The back-and-forth was just the latest twist for a pair of amendments that aim to stop lawmakers from drawing legislative or congressional districts that favor a particular political party. Lawmakers must finish drawing new Florida districts, including two new U.S. House seats, before the 2012 elections.
William March: "Florida legislative leaders Mike Haridopolos and Dean Cannon have resubmitted the state's new anti-gerrymandering amendments for federal approval, but in a way that critics say seeks to allow the Legislature to continue drawing districts to benefit Republicans."
"On Tuesday, Cannon and Haridopolos submitted a new application, but said in it that the amendments could harm minority voting rights in Florida, depending on how they're interpreted. If so, Cannon and Haridopolos said, the Department of Justice shouldn't approve them." "Critics say lawmakers want to continue gerrymandered districts".
A look ahead
"A look ahead at the Legislature". See also "Today in Tallahassee: House budget marathon, Senate Medicaid bill" and "2011 legislative summary".
Masters of the universe
"Florida lawmakers take varying views of Obama's Libya explanation".
Sink beats Scott by 20 points
"Overall, 32 percent like his job performance, compared with 55 percent who disapprove. PPP, a firm that often polls for Democrats, says that in a hypothetical matchup, Scott would lose 56-37 to Democrat Alex Sink, whom he bested by the thinnest of margins in November." "New poll shows that Florida Gov. Rick Scott isn't popular". See also "PPP Poll: Rick Scott Upside Down, Marco Rubio Is Solid".
Smart pundits agree: Legislators are whores
Scott Maxwell can't resist pointing out that "Florida lawmakers are among the most innovative pimps you'll ever meet. Just when you think they've exhausted every possible way to prostitute themselves, they come up with something new." "Just what we need: More big money in politics".
On Sunday, Howard Troxler wrote that "The Florida Legislature proved this past week, once and for all, that it is the utter Whore of Babylon." Troxler has more today.
Update: "House Readies Medicaid Reform for the Grand Finale".
"The Republican-controlled House turned back a move Tuesday by Democrats to block the wholesale shift of Florida's Medicaid program to private companies and networks of hospitals and other health care providers. ... Republicans say contracting with health management organizations and provider networks would reduce rapidly rising expenses for the fraud-plagued, program that covers low-income and disabled people. It costs about $20 billion now and is forecast to grow to $28 billion by 2014-15." "Florida House begins debate on Medicaid revamp". See also "State House advances Medicaid overhaul".
Republicans won't say that privatizing has the delightful effect of filling RPOF campaign coffers. As Paul Krugman once put it:
Jeb Bush has already blazed the [spoils system] trail. Florida's governor has been an aggressive privatizer, and as The Miami Herald put it after a careful study of state records, "his bold experiment has been a success" at least for him and the Republican Party, records show. The policy has spawned a network of contractors who have given him, other Republican politicians and the Florida G.O.P. millions of dollars in campaign donations.""Victors and Spoils".
Funny how that works.
Speaking of privatization
"Senate budget would privatize many prisons".
Republican from Umatilla attacks "socialism" in Miami and Orlando
"A proposal to shrink Citizens Property Insurance Corp. by raising premiums and limiting the types of policies the state-run insurer can issue passed its first Senate hurdle Tuesday but not before intense debate over what has become Florida’s largest single property insurer with nearly 1.3 million policies."
“Socialism failed in Moscow," said Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla. "It’s going to fail in Miami and Orlando as well.""Citizens’ bill to raise premiums clears first hurdle in Senate". Related: "Citizens' customers would see higher rates, be forced to switch insurers, under bill".
Who is Plakon's constituency?
"A bill filed by state Rep. Scott Plakon, a Republican from Longwood, threatens to dismantle university unions as well as many other government-employee unions if fewer than half of eligible employees are members."
Convincing employees to pay 1 percent of their salaries to join can be a tough sell. That's because all faculty — union members and non-members — enjoy the benefits of the contracts and salary changes the union negotiates on their behalf."Bill takes aim at university faculty unions".
Legislators return favor
"Legislators return favor to FPL with renewables bill".
Darden Restaurants shameless
"Darden Restaurants is lobbying the Florida Legislature for a tax break that would save the company as much as $5 million a year in sales taxes even as lawmakers weigh deep spending cuts to public schools, prisons and many other areas to cover a nearly $4 billion budget shortfall." "Darden seeking one-of-a-kind tax break from Legislature". See also "Darden profits jump 14 percent".
"It's a Baker Act Convention"
Daniel Ruth: "To paraphrase Mark Twain's famous line, no scintilla of common sense, reality or functioning brain synapses are safe while the Florida Legislature, that parallel universe of addled delusion, is in session."
This isn't even a legislative session at all. It's a Baker Act Convention, an assemblage of crazy people who gather together once a year in a heated competition to see who can come up with the dopiest ideas for laws to foist off on the body politic. "Off and running in race for dopiest idea".
"Legislators willing to divert dollars to cronies"
The Tampa Trib editors: "Former Florida House Speaker Ray Sansom got off in his trial for conspiracy, but he was not vindicated as he claimed. The episode may not have represented corruption, but it revealed a legislative leadership willing to mislead and divert public dollars to political cronies." "The shameful Sansom case".
Gentlemen, start your bulldozers
"Bills gutting growth management sailing through Legislature". See also "Losing controls on growth".
In Tally, "unlimited payoffs from those seeking favorable treatment"
Howard Troxler: "There is no state, no nation, no planet, and no universe where it should be legal to pay off a Legislature directly."
There is no government in which a sworn lawmaker should be able to take unlimited payoffs from those seeking favorable treatment."Let's say it again: Florida's legislators are for sale".
And yet this is now precisely the law of Florida.
In Sunday's column I called the Florida Legislature "the Whore of Babylon" for passing a law last week that legalizes its own bribery.
But the topic cries out not to be forgotten. This is a turning point in Florida's history.
It is now legal in Florida for the leaders of our House and Senate, of both the Republican and Democratic parties, to operate what are laughably called "leadership funds."
"Code of honor"
"Three Republican legislators today proposed a 'code of honor' forbidding state lawmakers from voting on any issues they have a personal financial stake in." "Lawmakers propose 'code of honor' bill".
"Singling out unions"
Even the Orlando Sentinel recognizes that the "Florida GOP legislators [is] singling out unions".
"Job-killing regs" kill no jobs
"As lawmakers seek to close a budget gap and eliminate 'job-killing regulations,' a vast deregulation bill would free auto repair shops from providing customers with written estimates that break down the cost of parts and labor."
It would halt inspections of businesses that sell ice, and stop state reports on how charities use their contributions."Deregulation bill would cost state".
Twenty different businesses are targeted in the bill, including movers, interior designers, talent agents and sports agents that recruit and represent student athletes.
And how much money would the state save with these changes?
"A major effort to sprinkle Las Vegas-style casinos throughout Florida is no longer a safe bet, a top lawmaker said Tuesday. State Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, who has spearheaded the Senate’s gaming efforts the past few years, is withdrawing a proposal to bring five “destination resorts” to the state that would have featured full casino gaming." "Casino bill is dead for session".
We don' need no stinkin' regerlations
"Five S. Fla. eateries closed for health, safety violations".
"Hundreds of green-clad government employees converged on the Capitol on Tuesday for a "death match" with conservative legislators who want to cut pensions, end deduction of union dues and privatize thousands of state jobs." "State workers go green for anti-Gov. Scott rally". Related: "Scott and legislators under fire from protesters".
"Setting up a possible showdown in May, the Senate on Tuesday released a proposed budget for the next fiscal year that is $3.3 billion larger than a competing House plan." "Senate's budget plan higher than House's proposal". See also "Senate, House Budgets at Odds Over How, Not How Much".
College professors next on the chopping block
"Bill Ending Tenure at State College System Clears House Subcommittee".
Lightweight to face Wasserman Schultz
"Karen Harrington announced on Monday that she will run once again for Conrgess against Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz."
Harrington defeated two candidates -- Robert Lowry and Donna Milo -- for the Republican nomination in 2010. So far, at least two other potential candidates stand in Harrington’s way for the Republican nomination. Tea party activist Joe Goldner has filed to run against Wasserman Schultz. Goldner has called for the impeachment of President Barack Obama and supports the federal Defense of Marriage Act Coral Springs businessman James Gleason, who is a vice president of the Republican Business Network, is also considering joining the race."Karen Harrington Challenges Debbie Wasserman Schultz".
"Any revenue for buying land would have to come from the sale of other state lands. Environmentalists are not sure if they like the idea." "Senate budget proposal would include $308 million in spending for Florida Forever".
Scott's rule-making freeze in court
"A blind woman who said her application for food stamps was stymied by Gov. Rick Scott's edict freezing new state regulations filed suit Tuesday in the Florida Supreme Court, saying the governor violated the constitutional separation of powers." "Suit challenges Gov. Scott's rule-making moratorium".
RPOFers save themselves from ethics rules
"Sen. Mike Fasano’s effort to stiffen penalties against corrupt lawmakers and public officials was killed on a 3-8 vote by the Senate Rules Committee, with most of the nay votes coming from fellow Republicans." "Rules Committee kills ethics bill targeting corrupt officials".
"The law of unintended consequences"
The News-Journal editors: "In 2009, the Florida Legislature passed a law tying state court funding to civil filing fees. It seemed like a reasonable move. Foreclosures were skyrocketing, and legislators figured it was only fair that users pay for services. Lawmakers saw dollar signs and a way to unburden the state general fund and to fund the overall court system, which has 20 circuit systems and hears both criminal and civil cases."
But the Legislature made court-system funding too dependent on these fees. Two years later, court revenues across the Sunshine State have fallen through the floor as the number of foreclosure filings has fallen. Yes, fallen. Foreclosures fell because of lawsuits and political pressure questioning the paperwork behind the original mortgages and the foreclosures."Reliable court funding essential to justice".
What a deal
"The Florida Prepaid College program was always billed as a bargain for families with college-bound children. It was a really good deal for those who bought into the program before 2007."
That was before the Legislature created "differential tuition," which allows universities to raise rates up to 15 percent a year until Florida's traditionally low tuition costs meet the national average."Prepaid college tuition's soaring cost triggers debate". Related: "How high will Florida raise tuition?".
Now, when you buy into the prepaid program, those anticipated increases are factored in. The most recent price to sign up a newborn for a four-year university plan was more than $45,000 -- more than double the cost two years ago.
But the families who purchased plans before differential tuition existed don't have to pay those fees. Instead, it's the universities -- and the cash-strapped state -- that ultimately lose out.
"Ship-repair firms in northeast Florida would likely be able to support the maintenance requirements of a nuclear aircraft carrier if one moves from Norfolk, Va., to Mayport, Fla., the U.S. General Accountability Office said Tuesday." "GAO: Fla. industry can maintain nuclear carrier".