"Despite sweeping to new heights last year, the potential meltdown of the 2011 session proves that having everyone with an R after their name doesn’t lead to harmony or complete agreement."
Budget talks broke down last week over such things as pension and benefit changes. The House wants to save just under $900 million by making changes to the pension plan, including requiring employees to contribute three percent to the cost. The Senate proposal, however, would save close to $1.3 billion. The Senate offer from last week would not only require a 3 percent contribution rate for employees, but it would also end cost-of-living increases. The Senate also wants to make changes to state worker health insurance."A House offer, however, was 'thrown in the trash.' Then a Senate proposal was put on ice after House Republicans said they wanted to tinker with it."
That led to an escalation of a war of words on Monday. Sen. J.D. Alexander took shots at House Speaker Dean Cannon and accused the Winter Park Republican of "stunts" and not negotiating in good faith. Alexander said the Senate gave the House a "fair and equitable" offer last week, but that Cannon appears to be interested in "gamesmanship" and is stalling and delaying a final resolution."Stunts, threats and the possible meltdown of the 2011 session". See also "Florida House, Senate Budget Battle Continues", "Fla. Senate budget chief unloads on House speaker" and "Democrat: Alexander's comments fuel speculation that lawmakers will miss deadline ".
Alexander hurls accusations at Cannon
"A squabble over spending turned tense Monday when the Florida Senate's budget chairman accused the leader of the Florida House of negotiating in bad faith and attempting to hamstring Senate President Mike Haridopolos' run for U.S. Senate."
Sen. J.D. Alexander hurled the accusations in frustration at House Speaker Dean Cannon after talks broke down over how to allocate money in different sections of the budget. At stake: more than $67 billion in spending that affects everything from school kids to criminals to the sick and elderly.
"Florida budget talks stall under accusations of negotiating in bad faith".
"The speaker has done everything he can to not deal with me because I know the budget well and I can figure out his gamesmanship pretty quickly," Alexander, R-Lake Wales said.
Cannon, who first clashed with Alexander two years ago over handling the budget, didn't respond and let budget chairwoman, Denise Grimsley, do the talking.
Grimsley said the hot-tempered Alexander rejected a House budget offer last week by saying "I'm going to put it in the trash."
Court packing moves in Senate
"With budget talks between the House and Senate strained, Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander extended an olive branch to House Speaker Dean Cannon on Monday: committee passage of Cannon's overhaul of the Florida Supreme Court."
Alexander attached Cannon's court revamp proposal as an amendment to a Senate bill that would give the Legislature greater control over court rules, SJR 2084."Among other things, the overhaul expands the number of Supreme Court justices from seven to 10 and divides the court into two five-member divisions, one for criminal cases and one for civil."
The three justices with most seniority, all appointed by a Democratic governor, would go to the criminal side. Republican appointees would remain on the civil side, where legislative issues would be considered. Gov. Rick Scott would fill the empty seats.
"Senate committee passes Supreme Court overhaul plan". Related: ""In surprise move, Senate passes Supreme Court split", "Senate compromises on Supreme Court overhaul to jump-start budget talks with House" and "Senate offers to trade court realignment for budget progress".
The "split court" concept has prompted charges from Democrats that the plan is more about stacking the court with people favorable to Republican causes than efficiency, which supporters say is the reason for the changes.
Today in Tally
"Today in Tallahassee: Abortion limits". Related: "2011 Legislative Summary ".
"House Speaker Dean Cannon's attempt to play hardball Monday with his top priority court reform bill wasn't the first time the speaker has used political pressure and dealmaking to advance his plan."
Rep. Perry Thurston of Plantation, the incoming Democratic leader, told the Times/Herald that Cannon called him into his office April 12, two days before the court reform bill was to be debated on the House floor.
"House Democrat: Speaker Dean Cannon tried to trade favorable treatment for support on court bill".
He wanted to know if Thurston, as incoming Democratic leader, and the Democratic caucus "could get him 10 to 15 votes for his court-packing bill, and five people to speak on behalf of it," Thurston said. "He said your ability to deliver will affect redistricting and the budget."
Thurston told him he would consult with his members and respond. Thurston consulted with Reps. Jim Waldman, Franklin Sands, Mark Pafford, Richard Steinberg, Mia Jones and Democratic Leader Ron Saunders.
"Several members said we should go to the press but we decided not to — this was a negotiation, what was he willing to offer?" Thurston recalled.
Thurston said the offer from Cannon came back: "You get back in my good will," a reference to Thurston's critical press release calling Cannon's court reform plan a "veiled attack on the third branch of government."
Thurston called the next day telling Cannon: no deal. "It would not be in the best interest of the people of the state of Florida for us to support this bill," he said.
Cannon has since barred Thurston, the Democrat's chosen lead legislator on redistricting matters, from the redistricting committee. Waldman, another vocal critic of the court reform bill, was also not appointed to the committee.
"A simple question for the Iago of Florida politics"
Daniel Ruth has "a simple question for George LeMieux, the Iago of Florida politics. Someday, when you are in your dotage and sitting around admiring all the dusty photos of yourself and Newt Gingrich, will you be able to say: 'It was worth tossing Charlie Crist under the tea party malcontent express bus, just so I could be a U.S. senator again'?"
LeMieux owes his own public career to Charlie Crist, who literally gave him a U.S. Senate seat to fill out the term of Mel Martinez, who resigned from office after he was completely bumfuzzled to learn he was actually expected to show up in Washington now and then to do his job.
"LeMieux displays a decency deficit".
It was LeMieux who served first as Crist's campaign manager and later the governor's chief of staff. It was LeMieux who crafted Crist's positions on casino gambling, global warming, voting rights for felons and accepting Barack Obama's federal stimulus money (man-hug optional). It was LeMieux all along. He's the one. He's the one you want.
George LeMieux, the Mata Hari of the Subtropics, was all too happy when Crist tapped him over other high-profile pols to replace the Maynard G. Krebs of the U.S. Senate. The former junior senator owes Crist big time, but it is a debt the former governor will likely never collect. When it comes to reciprocity, George LeMieux is the Lucy Van Pelt of friends.
Now that the Lord Haw-Haw of Florida politics is running to return to the Senate, he has taken great pains to disassociate himself from Crist, insisting there are many issues on which he disagreed with the governor. And if you give him a couple of months to work on it, he'll get back to you on what those issues are, say around December 2012.
One trick pony
"With the clock ticking on the session, Gov. Rick Scott's pledge to cut corporate income taxes got a last-minute rescue Monday, but senators are still balking at the price tag." "Gov. Rick Scott pushes corporate tax cut plan but Senate committee balks". See also "Scott's effort to end corporate income tax may be dead", "Democrat: Gov. Scott says he's confident Fla. will cut corporate tax" and "Corporate Tax Cuts on Life Support in Legislature".
More from the "values" crowd
Against "Scott's pledge to cut corporate income taxes", Floridians get this:"Florida state budget cuts spark outcry from poor, mentally ill".
Poor little rich clown
"It’s hard to find a public persona of Donald Trump that has hurt his appeal as a real estate pitchman, particularly in South Florida. But will Trump’s newfound role as right-wing birther prove as attractive?"
The question gets more relevant each day as Trump leads the pack of Republican White House contenders, and national political writers increasily treat him as a serious candidate, although others wonder if he’s running to pump up his TV ratings.
"Will Donald Trump’s brand benefit from presidential run?"
Any partisan fallout for the Trump brand will reveberate in South Florida, the largest outpost of Trump’s New York-based real estate empire.
“I think it’s been very helpful,’’ Trump said Monday, when The Miami Herald asked how presidential politics might influence condo buyers in Trump buildings. “All they like is winning.’’
Others see politics finally devaluing one of the most famous brands in luxury real estate, as Trump’s attacks on President Barack Obama’s heritage and character sour buyers to the Trump aura.
Meanwhile, the poor little rich kid who can't figure out how to comb his hair is now claiming that "Obama wasn't qualified for Ivy League".
"GOP backlash in 2012"?
"Florida Democratic lawmakers on outside looking in, expect GOP backlash in 2012".
"Overbilling, corruption, failures"
Fred Grimm: "The Herald’s Scott Hiaasen reported Sunday that the Florida Republican Party, the only party that matters in Tallahassee, has received $1.5 million from the state’s two largest corrections contractors and their affiliates since 2001. A million and a half bucks can quell a lot of queasiness about the private prison industry."
Despite bothersome problems with overbilling, corruption, failures of state oversight (not to mention rioting girls) that Florida has encountered after ceding seven state prisons and 10 percent of its 102,000-inmate population to private contractors, both chambers of the Legislature are ready to go even further. The plan percolating through the House would privatize six more prisons and reception centers in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. A more radical plan in the Senate would privatize all the Department of Corrections operations, including 14 more prisons, in the 18 counties south of Orlando, affecting the jobs of 4,600 DOC employees.
"Private-prisons lobbyists count more than reality".
Notice that both plans limit the pain of privatization, a combination of fewer jobs and lower pay, to the southern reaches of the state. North Florida, where state prisons have created the economic equivalent of factory towns, gets a reprieve.
Both plans, House and Senate, are based on an assumption — more like a leap of faith — that privatization will save taxpayers money. Maybe so, but nobody has produced convincing evidence.
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Favor public over bondsmen: Bogdanoff bill better, but her constituents don't want it".
Voter suppression by any other name
"Proposed bills would make voting harder for many Floridians".
Oh no! ... not another Rubio!
"He’s a young, little-known former state lawmaker who is steadily piling up praise from the chattering class as the most authentic conservative candidate in the race for Florida’s Senate seat. Adam Hasner announced his candidacy on Mark Levin’s nationally syndicated radio show Monday night, but even in this nascent stage of his campaign, there is ample evidence that his path is predicated on replicating the success of Sen. Marco Rubio." "Fla. hopeful looks to be next Rubio".
"Saying he wants to hear from Gov. Rick Scott's office and industry lobbyists, [Sen. Mike Fasano] is trying to delay a committee vote today on a bill that would dramatically increase state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. rates while dropping some customers." "Call for care on Citizens changes". See also "Gov. Scott considering closing state-backed Citizens Property Insurance".
They're just teachers
Alachua County blues: "Almost 500 teachers told they might not be back next year".
Papers please still standing
"Senate Bill 2040 would require police to check the immigration status of any person arrested on a misdemeanor or felony charge, including traffic offenses. Police would be required to hold undocumented suspects and turn them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers." "Latino leaders oppose Arizona-style immigration bill in Florida Legislature". Related: "Immigration Clock Runs Down on Republicans".
"Law enforcement officers, public defenders and other supporters of Florida’s 28 pretrial programs who packed the room for the House Judiciary Committee meeting got an earful from Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, on Thursday." "Gaetz calls bill opponents an "embarrassment" and says their lobbyist should be fired".
"Scott, Bondi and Atwater a big disappointment"
The Saint Pete Times editors: "So far, the new SBA board of trustees — Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater — have been a big disappointment. Despite campaigning for their jobs on promises of increasing accountability in the SBA, they haven't seen fit to put it at the top of their agenda." "Shine light on public funds".
Personal injury attorneys win one
"An insurance-backed effort to make it easier for the industry to deny personal injury protection claims stalled in both chambers Monday following a withering assault from attorneys who represent motorists, physicians, chiropractors and other providers." "PIP Bills Stall in House, Senate".
Makin' it easier for companies to cut down trees
"Bill would make it easier for billboard companies to cut down trees".
Howard Troxler has obviously taken some heat for his courageous "Appeal to people of Florida to stop direct bribery of Legislature" column: he spins on his head this morning for the sake ofbalance.
"Death over dementia"
Mike Thomas: "Law should allow choice of death over dementia".
House insists on slashing unemployment benefits
"While the House and Senate battle over the state budget, another standstill has developed over which chamber has a better proposal for unemployment compensation changes."
The two architects of rival bills -- Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota, and Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice -- have agreed that changes need to occur in order to reduce the financial burden employers are experiencing as a result of paying unemployment benefits at a time when the state’s unemployment rate is at 11.1 percent.
"House and Senate unwilling to compromise on unemployment compensation".
SB 728 and HB 7005 are similar, with each requiring those receiving benefits to go through a skills review before receiving benefits. Both also would allow employers to more easily win legal disputes over benefits, and both also alter the tax structure on jobless benefits that could give employers a tax reduction.
But the House version holds one key proposal that both sides are unwilling to compromise on. The House proposal includes eliminating six weeks from the number of eligible weeks that one can receive unemployment benefits, decreasing it from 26 weeks to 20 weeks.
Detert said on Monday that while she is working with the House on language before it is taken up during its last committee stop on Tuesday at the Senate Budget Committee, she noted she is not ready to change her mind on the reduction of weeks.
"Penny wise and pound foolish"
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "In its effort to balance the state budget without raising revenue, the Florida Senate wants to eliminate $1.8 billion in hospitalization coverage for the sickest and poorest patients. But such calculus is penny wise and pound foolish." "Medicaid cuts hurt more than patients".
"Fewer than 200 Florida panthers remain"
"Fewer than 200 Florida panthers remain, nearly all of them in Everglades habitat of South Florida." "Dead panther was shot; reward offered".