"The day after House Speaker Dean Cannon revised a plan for revamping the Florida Supreme Court, some Democrats charged the proposal is all about packing the court with judges sympathetic to Republicans in advance of redistricting."
"There's a lot of concern out there that this isn't really about the courts. That this is about redistricting and this is about trying to make things happen before redistricting," said Rep. Richard Steinberg, D-Miami Beach."Democrats: House Speaker Dean Cannon's court reform proposal is attempt to stack deck for redistricting".
Cannon's proposals include expanding the current seven-member Supreme Court into two five-justice divisions, one for civil cases and one for criminal. That change will require a constitutional amendment approved by 60 percent of Florida voters.
As written, HJR 7111 could go before voters as soon as Florida's presidential primary, scheduled for Jan. 31, 2012.
New voting district lines — developed every 10 years — are scheduled to be drawn by lawmakers in early 2012, followed by a Supreme Court review of the proposals.
If voters approve Cannon's measure in a primary election, Gov. Rick Scott would then have three appointees on a remade court that will play a definitive role in redistricting — a significant concern for Democrats.
Related: "Cannon waters down proposal to reform court" and "Florida House panel OK's revamp of high court".
"Slashing funding for classrooms"
"Both the Republican-led House and Senate budgets make about $4 billion in spending cuts by slashing funding for classrooms, raising tuition at state colleges and reshaping the $21 billion Medicaid health-care program for the poor." "Florida schools, health care face about $4 billion in cuts as protesters gather".
"Setting up tough negotiations for the next four weeks, the House and Senate on Thursday voted out competing spending plans. Both the House and Senate versions of the budget eliminate state jobs and are expected to cause layoffs." "House, Senate budgets differ".
"The state House and Senate pass budgets with deep cuts for schools and health care. Neither includes corporate income tax and property tax cuts proposed by Gov. Rick Scott." "Senate, House approve budgets". See also "State House, Senate pass differing budget bills". More: "Florida House Passes $66.5 Billion Initial Budget" and "Florida Senate Passes $69.8 Billion Budget".
Today in Tally
"A controversial bill that would deregulate 20 professions passed the House on Thursday by a 77-38 vote. ... Senate bill nixes SunPass discount ... Sexting measure creeps along ... A House plan to end tenure in state colleges could be dead." "THE STATE REPORT".
"The Florida Senate is not scheduled to meet at all. Several committees will take up bills in the House, including a proposal to broaden the criteria to qualify for a school-voucher program." "Today in Tallahassee: Pace slows, vouchers get a hearing".
Never mind the Constitution
"School classes will get bigger under bills approved Thursday by the state legislature. Republican lawmakers said the measures will give school districts flexibility implementing class-size limits set in a 2002 constitutional amendment, removing the limits from hundreds of subjects and allowing them to sometimes go over the limits in the classes still included." "Lawmakers OK higher class sizes for hundreds of classes".
"A complete, certifiable, illiterate dimwit"
Daniel Ruth: "First, let's dispense with the obvious issue. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, including the freedom to publicly proclaim that one is a complete, certifiable, illiterate dimwit."
Shttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifo it was perfectly appropriate for U.S. District Judge John Antoon to rule that it was unconstitutional for the Florida Legislature to decide which groups, such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans, should be permitted to have their own specialty vanity license plate. But it must be noted that wanting to promote one's ignorance about the Civil War is a rather perverse definition of vanity."The Sons of Confederate Veterans got their hoop skirts in a wad in 2008, when a bill was introduced in the Legislature to create a specialty plate hyping 'Confederate Heritage.'"
In a state with hardly the most sterling record of race relations, this went over about as well as having an Andrew Jackson Trail of Tears license plate created just for American Indian reservations."Historical amnesiacs plague the South".
Even the Florida Legislature, which has never been averse to exposing itself as a carpetbag of special interests, found a license plate honoring the stain of slavery about as misguided as creating a University of Georgia Bulldog Day and allowed the bill to die.
But because of Antoon's ruling, based on the same U.S. Constitution that Jefferson Davis would have used to line a birdcage, the "Confederate Heritage" plate could be coming to a pickup near you.
The timing couldn't be more ominous.
"Pink slip Rick!"
"Hundreds of union members and unemployed workers flooded the Capitol Thursday, protesting Gov. Rick Scott with chants of 'Pink slip Rick!'." "Union, Unemployed Workers Hold 'Pink Slip' Protest of Gov. Rick Scott".
Hiding homeless people
"Florida bill would crack down on panhandling".
Scott mothballs programs
"Pushing back on Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to mothball a handful of programs housed within his office, some members of the Florida Senate on Thursday told the governor in no uncertain terms that he has other responsibilities than just bringing jobs to the state." "Senators Quibble With Rick Scott on Office Reorganization Issues".
"The Florida House passed a reform measure to newly hired state employees' pensions Thursday, backing the measure on a 78-to-39 party lines vote. The initial measure called for a 5 percent contribution, but the new version requires a 3 percent contribution. The bill that passed the House, which has the support of Gov. Rick Scott, would also terminate the state Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) for new workers and would raise the retirement age from 62 to 65." "House Backs State Employees' Pension Reform on Party Lines Vote".
Form over substance
"Senate plan would slash university system chancellor's salary".
Wingnut wet dream: Schools without teachers
"A pair of lawmakers and former Gov. Jeb Bush’s foundation are pushing to allow private providers offer online classes. Starting next year at least one online course would be required to graduate from high school." "Lawmakers push for private online education". See also "Expand 'virtual' schools, say lawmakers".
Hawkes, Ross ... a delightful couple
"Lawyers for a Lakeland firefighter have asked the Florida Supreme Court to step into yet another decision made by the 1st District Court of Appeal in a case heard while the appeals court was building a controversial $50 million courthouse."
Firefighter David Bivens and the city of Lakeland had appealed a lower court decision in 2008. The 1st District Court, in a decision written by Judge Paul Hawkes, refused to approve workers compensation medical benefits for Bivens."Another 1st District Court of Appeal ruling challenged".
Lakeland was represented by Dennis Ross, a Lakeland lawyer who was a member of the state House of Representatives at the time. Ross has since been elected to the U.S. House.
Ross is the connection between the Bivens case and the much-criticized "Taj Mahal" courthouse.
The appeals court judges named Ross as one of several "heroes" who greatly assisted the court in its lobbying efforts, in part because of his help in getting money for the new courthouse.
Geoffrey Bichler, the Maitland lawyer representing Bivens, contends that the court ignored evidence presented in the case and should have disclosed the relationship between the judges and Ross.
More on Congressman Ross here: "Dennis Ross, R-Fla., embarrasses himself" (scroll down).
Keep your hands off my fertilizer ban
"Lawmakers change bill to allow Pinellas County sales ban on nitrogen fertilizers".
When you've lost the Trib editors ...
... you're in trouble, if you're a merit pay lapdog, that is.
The Tampa Trib editors: "Florida Gov. Rick Scott and members of the Legislature have been patting themselves on the back for quickly adopting legislation to evaluate teachers based on student test scores."
Although the right wing Trib editorial board
long supported merit pay — rewarding teachers for performance, rather than seniority. But while the legislation's goals are correct, the measure reflects the arrogant "Tallahassee knows best" attitude that prevails in the Legislature these days."Classroom warning signs".
Rather than establishing broad goals and letting local school districts devise a merit-pay system that works best for them, Scott and lawmakers insisted on a state-controlled system that values student test results above all.
The potential dangers of this test-score obsession can be seen in Washington, D.C., where an investigation by USA Today reporters Jack Gillum and Marisol Bello found widespread irregularities in school test scores. The head of Washington public schools has requested an investigation.
USA Today reports, for instance, in 2006 only 10 percent of students in S. Noyes Education Campus scored "proficient" or "advanced" in math on standardized tests. Two years later, 58 percent achieved that designation.
How long until Florida's knuckle-draggers go after emails?
Bill Maxwell: "Now we turn to Florida, where the GOP rules, where Gov. Rick Scott has shunned the universities and has turned to conservative think tanks for advice and policies."
According to a St. Petersburg Times article, Scott has aligned himself most notably with the Cato Institute, Reason Foundation and Heritage Foundation [as well as the knuckle-draggers at Florida's own, bizarrely named James Madison Institute*]."Professors feel blast of intimidation".
How long, then, will it be before Scott and his think tank advisers start going after the e-mails of Florida professors with whom they disagree
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*The neo-Confederates at the James Madison Institute ("JMI") can't seem to get their history right: James Madison was actually a "supporter of a powerful central government".
Salient to the current political debate in Tallahassee, and unlike the JMI functionaries, "Madison – that Founding Father, giant of the Federalist Papers – rather than sanguine about the unequal distribution of wealth, tells us that '[t]he regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation.' That’s legislation that regulates the 'interfering interests' that flow from the unequal distribution of wealth." Much more at "James Madison and Madison, Wisconsin".
"And they ought to know"
"Republicans pushing for changes in the state’s health insurance program for its employees have complained the state may be spending too much money for a program that is out of line with what private companies offer. And they ought to know." "Who gets cheap health insurance? The Florida Legislature".
Dereg madness cools down a bit
"Florida House passes bills eliminating, reducing state licensing requirements for professions".
"Florida bills may slow dog racing, boost other gambling".
That's our Haley ...
"Likely presidential candidate Barbour visits Tallahassee".
One suspects Mr. Barbour won't be talking about race issues. See "Barbour Praises Civil Rights-Era White Supremacist Citizens Councils". See also "Why Haley Barbour whitewashes history".