Haridopolos' political partner
"From 30-year-old community college professor to Florida Senate president, Mike Haridopolos' political rise has been steady and methodical."
Two years in the Florida House; elected to the Florida Senate in 2003; on the short list to be Charlie Crist's lieutenant governor in 2006; Senate president 2010-present; now a candidate for U.S. Senate."At his side all along has been Frank Tsamoutales, a low-profile lobbyist. Haridopolos calls him one of his closest political advisers."
• One of Tsamoutales' clients and closest friends pays Haridopolos $5,000 a month — $60,000 a year — for amorphous consulting duties. Haridopolos was admonished by the Senate last month for failing to disclose the source of that income."Sen. Mike Haridopolos' rise aided by political partner".
• Tsamoutales helped persuade Haridopolos to earmark $20 million toward a biomedical development 200 miles from his district. The developer, a Tsamoutales client, now faces criminal theft charges, accused of bilking taxpayers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
• Tsamoutales' wife and father have served on the Brevard Community College board of trustees, Haridopolos' former employer.
• Haridopolos bought a Lennar Homes investment property in Mount Dora days after Tsamoutales registered as Lennar's agent, which both say is sheer coincidence.
Today in Tally
"Today in Tallahassee: House, Senate observe Passover holiday".
"A big bump in the road"?
"One year later, the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history looks more and more like just a big bump in the road in the drive to drill deeper in the Gulf of Mexico and potentially closer to Florida’s coastline." "A year after the BP spill, talk of drilling on the rise". Related: "Drilling opposition evaporates".
The Saint Pete Times editorial board: "Progress toward requiring safer drilling, protecting natural resources and compensating victims has been uneven at best and Wednesday's one-year anniversary of the explosion should spark a renewed commitment to reforms. " "Too soon to rush back to deepwater drilling".
More "journalistic" balance
Aaron Sharockman strikes his usual "balance" this morning with this anti-union drivel: "Dueling over 'paycheck protection' [and] PolitiFact Florida rates dueling ads over 'paycheck protection' legislation". For a more detailed look at the issue, go here.
Dramatic environmental law changes on the table
"No matter which side of the fence they're on, most people who track environmental issues in the Florida Legislature say they can't remember a time when so much dramatic change was on the table. Rules could be rewritten for guiding growth, environmental permitting and regulating water use and supplies." "Environmental changes on horizon".
Different priorities for House, Senate and Scott
The right-wing editors at the Daytona Beach News-Journal claim that "the budgeteers in Tallahassee are making a credible attempt to balance the budget."
Many of the choices they face are unappealing, and some of them are downright painful. But they're unavoidable; the state can't print money or run a budget deficit. And raising taxes when unemployment is above 11 percent isn't a palatable option, either."Critics of state budget cuts don't see the whole picture".
The budgets passed by the House and Senate both include about $4 billion in cuts. Although the Republican Party is solidly in control of the Legislature, the House, the Senate and Scott have different spending priorities.
For instance, the governor wants to cut deeper to finance business tax cuts. House and Senate leaders, so far, have disagreed, taking what we think is the wiser course by limiting the cuts to the purpose of deficit reduction.
The House wants to protect the Medically Needy program; the Senate would gut funding for this important part of the health care safety net.
The loss of federal stimulus money will have a big impact on education. But the schools will be getting almost $3 billion to help them meet the class-size mandate.
It's debatable whether relatively small reductions in class size produce significant academic benefits, but voters wanted smaller classes and the Legislature has to provide funding.
Both chambers have plans to reduce spending on the $22 billion Medicaid health care program. It's nearly impossible to balance the budget without wrestling with the cost of Medicaid, which has been rising by double-digit percentages in recent years.
Neither the House nor the Senate has gone as far as Scott wanted on the issue of pension reform. Legislators want government employees to contribute to their pensions, but lawmakers see the need to soften the impact on workers' salaries. The Senate plan would require those with higher salaries to pay more than those who make less than $40,000 a year.
Tense debate over RPOF court packing scheme
"After two hours of contentious debate, the Florida House voted on Friday to approve forwarding a proposed constitutional amendment to the voters. The proposal passed on a vote that mirrored party lines, with 79 Republicans backing the controversial measure and 38 Democrats voting against it. ... The debate continued with some tense moments."
When Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, attacked the proposal, noting that more Floridians backed the FairDistricts proposals than voted for Rick Scott in November, Cannon interjected twice, demanding that the Democratic representative focus on the policy at hand. Rep. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, suggested that the Republicans file a bill that only Republican governors should appoint Supreme Court justices -- and then added that Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, would back the measure."Florida House Forwards Dramatic Supreme Court Reform".
House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami, took exception to comments from Waldman and Rep. Luis Garcia, D-Miami, comparing the proposal to something worthy of communist Cuba. During the debate on the enacting measure accompanying the proposal, Waldman took exception to those comments, noting that his ex-wife fled her native Cuba in 1959 and that his children were Cuban-Americans.
Eisnaugle closed the debate, insisting the proposal had nothing to do with redistricting and that the measure was not court packing.
But the proposal may face opposition in the Senate. While the Senate Rules Committee passed a measure by Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, on Friday requiring state Supreme Court appointments to have Senate confirmation, her attempt to bring forth the House proposal was withdrawn. During questioning on Thursday, Rep. Richard Steinberg, D-Miami Beach, demanded to know of Eisnaugle who was backing the measure in the Senate and received no answer.
Republican Study Committee drags its knuckles
"Last Wednesday Mack, who had been named chairman of the Repeal Task Force set up by the Republican Study Committee earlier in the month, unveiled his new group and came out swinging at the president’s speech on the national debt made earlier in the day. "
Joined by U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, and seven other congressmen, Mack said the task force would look to repeal the federal health-care law that Obama backed, energy mandates, and the Davis-Bacon Act which requires that employees working on public projects are paid prevailing wages. Mack and members of the task force argue that Davis-Bacon -- which was signed into law in 1931 by [Republican] Herbert Hoover and crafted by then-U.S. Sen. James J. Davis of Pennsylvania, who served as U.S. labor secretary under [Republican's] Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Hoover -- hinders small businesses looking to obtain federal contracts."While Opting Out of Senate Race, Connie Mack is Staying in the Game".
Mack also used his perch as chairman of the House Western Hemisphere Subcommittee as a base to attack Obama during a hearing on American foreign aid.
"Graham sees his legacy threatened"
Mark Lane: "Bob Graham, former Florida governor, U.S. senator ... claims he's depressed. Depressed in a glass-half-full, come-on-people-let's-all-roll-up-our-sleeves-and-get-to-work way. A Bob Graham kind of way."
The Florida Legislature ... is poised to pass a proposed state constitutional amendment to "pack the Florida Supreme Court" as Graham characterizes it and, generally, is trying to grab power from courts and undo judicial reforms from the time of Graham and Gov. Reubin Askew."For a guy who's down, Bob Graham sure getting around".
Worst of all, Graham complained, the governor and Legislature "think of Florida as a commodity" and mistakenly believe that by degrading the environment and cutting education, they'll be able to sell the state as the cheapest place around to do business.
"Saying we're going to sell Florida as the cheapest state is an old-fashioned idea," he said because in a global marketplace, there will always be someplace far, far cheaper.
Instead of racing to the bottom -- the commodity approach -- a competitive state must offer things that are harder to find: the kind of quality of life people want, research facilities, good schools ... .
Graham contrasted the current approach with the time when he was governor, Hyatt Brown (who was in the audience) was House speaker and the state was run by "people who thought Florida was not a commodity. It was a treasure!"
In short, Graham sees his legacy threatened.
Teabaggers falling for "self-aggrandizing clown talk"
Nancy Smith says "stop inviting this baloney business magnate to speak at tea party picnics. Let’s stop asking him serious questions about national policy so he can blather back the answers he thinks we want to hear. Let's stop following his combination political and TV-show malarkey on E! channel. And let's definitely stop comparing him – as one commentator did last week – to Ronald Reagan."
wonder[s] which is more embarrassing to the GOP, this 20 minutes of self-aggrandizing clown talk repeated every time he faces a camera, or the fact that Republican voters are buying it and putting him ahead in so many 2012 presidential polls."Derail the Donald Trump Presidential Express".
Universities go after influential officeholders
"Former House Speaker Ray Sansom avoided a corruption conviction, but the short-lived job with a state college that forced him out of the Legislature put a sharper focus on a long history of Florida colleges and universities currying favor with politicians by hiring them."
Several current and former Florida governors, legislators and other high-ranking politicians work at public universities and colleges, many of them getting hired after they were elected. Senate President Mike Haridopolos, former Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan, former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney and former Govs. Bob Graham and Reubin Askew are among the most prominent of a group that also includes four sitting state senators and three House members."Florida colleges woo politicians".
The competition for state funding is ferocious, and the schools aren't shy about going after the most influential officeholders they can attract.
Nothing worse than a whiny car salesman
"The businessman who led the recall of Miami-Dade's mayor and pushed to reform county government says he will vote against all the charter amendments at the May 24 special election. Norman Braman told Sunshine State News he cannot support any of the so-called reform measures tweaked, retooled or simply made up by county commissioners." "Miami Reform Effort Sacked for a Loss".
"Goo is gone", but not the Gopers
"Economy, environment are still a concern to many in the state a year after the Gulf oil disaster." "Goo is gone, but worries about oil's effects aren't".