"With an eye toward the 2012 elections, Florida Republicans are mounting the broadest assault on their Democratic counterparts since taking control of the Legislature 15 years ago."
Bills barreling through the House and Senate attempt to starve Democrats of their primary sources of cash and halt partisan gains of the last two election cycles."Republicans are also moving bills on litigation overhaul that make it more difficult for trial lawyers — big contributors to Florida Democrats — to mount or profit from lawsuits against hospitals, HMOs, nursing homes, insurers and others. Another large Democratic donor — unions — would be starved of campaign cash through legislation that would sever payroll deductions, a key union fundraising tool. Republicans are also effectively cutting worker salaries, making it harder for public employees to contribute to unions."
They have also passed measures that could add to their nearly absolute power in the Capitol: new campaign finance laws that would increase fundraising power, coupled with deregulation of private business, insurers and developers that would lift burdens from traditional GOP contributors."State GOP rushes to weaken Democrats". See also "Republican legislative agenda targets major Democratic donors" ("Republicans, who dominate the Florida Legislature, are pushing bills to weaken major contributors to Democrats before the state’s political maps are redrawn.")
With so much partisan hate to spew, Florida's Republican "Lawmakers may not finish on time".
"Redistricting battle lines"
"Redistricting battle lines are already forming a week into the yearlong job of redrawing Florida's legislative and congressional maps." "Get ready for the start of the redistricting war".
"Bulldozing Florida's scholastic landscape"
The Orlando Sentinel editors: "Late last year, Gov.-elect Rick Scott outlined bold plans for bulldozing Florida's scholastic landscape."
He'd impose teacher merit pay. He'd press for charter school expansion. And he'd make more access to virtual education a reality."Weaker public schools would be the familiar result of new universal voucher scheme".
But Scott said he'd keep his last and perhaps most contentious reform arrow — "vouchers-for-all" — in his quiver. At least for the 2011 legislative session.
Then, like an offering to Caesar, Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican, presented Senate Bill 1550. His "GI bill for kids" would put school choice in parents' hands through "education savings accounts." Parents could tap state taxpayer dollars to cover private school (including sectarian schools) or homeschooling needs, or fund pre-paid college plans.
Shades of Jeb Bush, but with a makeover meant to pass the constitutional test where Bush's 2006 Florida voucher plan failed.
Cops boycott of Chamber banks
"The union push to boycott banks whose executives help lead the Florida Chamber of Commerce got a big boost Friday, when a state police union asked its 20,000 members to close their personal accounts."
James Preston, president of the Fraternal Order of Police's Florida State Lodge, this morning said the union has canceled its own membership in the Florida Chamber and directed local chapters to do the same. More significantly, Preston asked FOP-member law enforcement and corrections officers around the state to pull their money out of Bank of America, PNC Bank, Regions Bank, SunTrust and Wachovia."Cops urged to boycott Florida Chamber banks".
The Florida Chamber is pushing the Legislature to pass the "Paycheck Protection" act, which would prohibit state and local governments from collecting union dues through payroll deduction — potentially crippling labor's ability to operate.
"BP giving Fla. $100 million for spill damage".
Morgan & Morgan sued
"A former employee of the Morgan & Morgan law firm has filed suit in federal court against the firm, claiming, among other things, sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and battery that included unwanted touching and hugging."
"The workplace was full of inappropriate and sexual comments, innuendo, jokes, stories and acts," Burman claims in the suit. ..."Ex-employee sues Morgan & Morgan for sex harassment".
Much of the complaints were aimed at a man she identified as her supervisor. She complained about the man's actions and said that he was frequently intoxicated, saying he once urinated over the balcony of a bar at "happy hour" and was saved from arrest by another employee of the firm.
Burman complained that female employees had to provide sexual favors and not complain about what they experienced to get ahead in the company. She said when she rebuffed her supervisor's advances he became more and more hostile toward her, his actions were more punitive and he treated her differently from co-workers.
She said the firm's Human Resources department did not properly investigate claims.
"That's a lie," said Morgan. "The HR department conducted a full investigation. There's a large file."
Republican's "stunning hypocrisy"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "If [Republican] state Rep. Frank Artiles out-and-out lied about where he lives, then he is unfit to serve in elected office. If he was, as he says, 'misinformed' about something he should have known, then maybe he’s not cut out to be a legislator. We expect lawmakers to make the tough decisions on our behalf. If they aren’t clear on the details, then they can’t be effective public servants, can they?"
Then there is Mr. Artiles’ stunning hypocrisy. Last month, the Republican freshman cast a vote to admonish and fine a Democratic colleague, Rep. Reggie Fullwood, for failing to move to the Jacksonville district that he represents until 15 days after his election. In Mr. Artiles’ case, it’s been 170 days — and counting. He says he didn’t know what he was voting for. Really?"Get moving".
After 4 months in office Scott still striking out
"When Gov. Rick Scott won election last November, he said Florida is 'open for business.'"
His pitch varies depending on the type of company he’s trying to lure, but generally includes some variation of speeches Scott has made publicly, highlighting Florida’s lack of state income tax, status as a right-to-work state, and beautiful weather and beaches."Scott: Selling Florida With Intensity to Businesses Worldwide".
Those traits, however, are not new to Florida, and did not prevent unemployment from skyrocketing in the aftermath of the recession, so Scott also hypes his business-friendly policies designed to entice relocating companies of all kinds.
He proposed phasing out the state’s corporate income tax, which is an already modest 5.5 percent, and put a temporary freeze on new rules and regulations upon being sworn into office. The business tax cuts have not been included in either the House or Senate budgets passed earlier this month, but Scott’s plan to consolidate Florida’s economic development functions have gotten a warmer reception from legislators.
During Scott’s first four months in office, he hasn’t scored any major coups, but he has been out in front on some modest successes, highlighting businesses that have decided to make the move to Florida.
That's the best they could do?
Michael Peltier's "Recap and analysis of the week in state government". "Roundup: Two Weeks Left Plus Zero Budget Conference Equals Worry".
Cliff Stearns insults 9/11 Responders
"A provision in the new 9/11 health bill may be adding insult to injury for people who fell sick after their service in the aftermath of the 2001 Al Qaeda attacks, The Huffington Post has learned."
The tens of thousands of cops, firefighters, construction workers and others who survived the worst terrorist assault in U.S. history and risked their lives in its wake will soon be informed that their names must be run through the FBI’s terrorism watch list, according to a letter obtained by HuffPost. ...Opponents hold "Stearns responsible, as well as several other Republicans who were hostile to the 9/11 bill, and tried to tack all manner of amendments onto it." "9/11 Responders To Be Warned They Will Be Screened By FBI's Terrorism Watch List (EXCLUSIVE)"
“This is absurd,” said Glen Kline, a former NYPD emergency services officer. “It’s silly. It’s stupid. It’s asinine.”
The provision was tacked on by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) during the contentious fight over the bill in December, which was blocked by Republicans at the time. Stearns' amendment adds a paragraph stipulating the "disqualification of individuals on the terrorist watch list," and requiring each potential beneficiary to be run through the list."9/11 First Responders To Be Run Through FBI Terrorism Watch List". Related: "GOP: U.S. can't afford to fund health 'entitlement program' for 9/11 rescue workers".
McAuliff reports participants "will soon be told that their names, places of birth, addresses, government ID numbers and other personal data will be provided to the FBI to ensure they are not terrorists."
Perhaps not ironically, gun nut Quran-burning Florida pastor Terry Jones appears to live in Stearns' district. Related: "Pastor seeking to protest at mosque briefly jailed".
"With two weeks left to go in the 2011 regular legislative session and the House and the Senate at an impasse over the budget, Gov. Rick Scott oozes confidence that one of his most sought-after proposals -- a cut and eventual phase-out of the business income tax -- will make it into the final budget." "Gov. Rick Scott Talks Budget, Tax Cuts as Session Nears End".
Attacking public safety pensions
"A bill designed to help local governments rebalance their pension plans for workers moved through its last committee stop Thursday in the House State Affairs Committee. An amendment allowing municipalities to use 50 percent of insurance premium tax dollars on 401(k)-style defined contribution plans was tacked onto HB 7241, getting a buy-in from local leaders, but police and fire unions were reluctant to accept the change." "Bill Reining in Local Pension Plans Heads to House Floor".
Florida Republicans want "government between a woman and her doctor"
The Saint Pete Times editors: "Republican state legislators have spent more than a year spewing rhetoric opposing the federal health care reform law that will require most Americans to have health insurance. Yet on Tuesday, the Florida House is expected for the second straight year to vote to position state government between a woman and her doctor." "Attack on women's rights".
Wingnuts luv their Trump
"In Florida last weekend,"
Trump veered from calling for America to launch a trade war with China to saying America should seize the oil in Iraq and Libya to suggesting that radical former Weather Underground bomber William Ayers authored Obama’s first book."Donald Trump is turning Republican Party heads". Related: "Some Obama birth records made public for years" ("Possible Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has repeatedly stoked the birther fires recently, and last month called on Obama to 'show his birth certificate.' Trump said he has investigators in Hawaii searching for more information.")
“The man that wrote the second book didn’t write the first book. The first book was written by Ernest Hemingway plus. The second book was written by a high school graduate. The difference was like chicken salad and chicken s---,” he said.
The crowd loved it.
Related: "Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee Lead GOP 2012 Pack in New Gallup Poll".
From the "values" crowd
The priorities of the "values" crowd: "PBC schools employee layoffs, furloughs looming" and "Broward considers school layoffs, furloughs, cuts". More: "Advocates decry cost of mental-health cuts" and "South Florida water district proposes 40 percent cuts".
"Session a disaster for civil rights and liberties"
Howard Simon, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, asks "Does Florida really need a Legislature? This sounds like a radical idea — but entertain it for a moment. This legislative session has been a disaster for civil rights and civil liberties. If there is a human right, this Legislature will find a way to restrict or threaten it." "Do we really need this Legislature?"
The Sun-Sentinel editors: "'Decoupling' bill on dog races a solid bet".
"Orlando company plans 1,200 new jobs ... in North Carolina"
"While Florida's economic mantra continues to be jobs, jobs, jobs, an Orlando company announced it was adding 1,200 jobs — in North Carolina." "While Florida seeks jobs, jobs, jobs, Orlando company plans 1,200 new ones in North Carolina".
Florida Republicans' "political parlor tricks"
Douglas C. Lyons: "If I didn't know better, I'd swear our elected leaders in Tallahassee are more fixated on Nov. 6, 2012 than July 1, 2011, the start of Florida's new budget year."
If the GOP thinks Florida's still in play in the upcoming presidential election, they can rest easy. Florida Republicans are doing their part with a variety of political parlor tricks that will undermine efforts to replicate the 2008-sized turnout that put our state in the Democratic win column. "GOP stacks deck for 2012 election".
Second amendment stoopid
"Pediatricians say gun privacy bill would muzzle them".
"Inside the Obama White House, 2012 is the priority"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Rather than rewarding average plans to get below-average plans to improve, the administration should kick poor-performing plans out of Medicare Advantage. It would cost less than giving out unearned bonuses and would be better for the seniors in those plans. It would help the administration's argument in defense of the Affordable Care Act. It also might cost the administration politically. And inside the Obama White House, 2012 is the priority." "Politics gets advantage: To improve Obama's chances in Florida, White House backs off good health ...".
One trick pony
"Scott confident Fla. legislature to phase out corporate income tax".
"Six business leaders from Central Florida met with Gov. Rick Scott on Friday to talk about SunRail." "Central Florida business leaders talk SunRail with Gov. Rick Scott".
Scott and Stearns luv the raw sewage
"The day after the Florida House passed a bill to ban implementation of water quality standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gov. Rick Scott on Friday asked the agency to rescind a January 2009 determination that the federal rules are necessary for Florida." "Scott to EPA: Butt out". See also "Cliff Stearns, Rick Scott Turn Up Heat on EPA".