Update: "With time running out on the 2011 legislative session, the Florida Senate plans a meeting on Saturday." "Senate plans Saturday meeting".
"Lawmakers today continue racing against the clock to sew up spending gaps between the two chambers. To finish the session on time, they'll need a proposed budget by Tuesday." See also "Senate Readies Insurance, Gun Privacy and Abortion Bills for Final Vote".
Meanwhile, our Governor looks to spend some time with some friendly faces today:
Scott heads south this afternoon to attend an American Custom Yachts event in Stuart."Today in Tallahassee: Racing against the clock". See also "New divide in Florida budget debate: the federal health care law" ("A new wedge developed Wednesday between legislative Republicans as they hammered out a budget deal: President Barack Obama's health care law.")
Firefighters second riskiest job ... and we gut their pensions?
The Daily Beast has released the 20 riskiest jobs in America and fire fighters ranked second. Fishermen topped the list. Airplane pilots, police officers and loggers round out the top five: "During the last year for which data are available, a total of 39 firefighters died [and many more injured] while on-the-job". "20 Most Dangerous Jobs".
Neither Chamber of Commerce executives nor bank presidents made the list.
Scott's union busting bill flops
Update: Rumor has it the bill will reappear, perhaps Saturday.
"Scott paid a rare, personal visit to the offices of four Republican senators Wednesday in a last-minute attempt to rescue an anti-union bill that appeared destined for defeat."
The governor asked the same question of Miami Sens. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Rene Garcia and Anitere Flores, and Inverness Sen. Charlie Dean. And he got the same answer: no."Gov. Rick Scott visits senators to rally support for union bill destined for defeat".
Scott's intervention was the "Hail Mary" pass of Sen. John Thrasher, the Jacksonville lawyer and former Republican Party of Florida chairman whose top priority was passage of the bill to ban public employee unions from using automatic payroll deduction to collect dues. But by the end of the day, Thrasher had all but conceded defeat. ...
Scott's failure to change the minds of fellow Republicans underscored the lack of popularity of the bill and of the freshman governor, who adopted the talking points of the nationally watched issue but lacked the political juice to get it.
"After All, He Is Black"
"On the first day of budget talks, the House Republicans tacitly accuse their Senate counterparts of supporting President Obama’s health care law." "‘ObamaCare’ slur hurled in budget talks".
Michael Mayo: "If there's no Citizens Insurance, then what?". The Sun Sentinel editors: "Public distrust of private insurers complicates efforts to slim Citizens Insurance".
Rubio charms Teabag crowd
"U.S. Senator Rubio wows crowd".
Do boys do what they do
"Ethics staff finds no conflict of interest in Scott's handling of investments".
The Saint Pete Times editors note that "There is strong evidence that the best way to reduce prison costs is to pump resources into substance abuse treatment, mental health services, education and job training. Investment in those programs can translate into big reductions in recidivism"
But so far, lawmakers in Tallahassee haven't taken this cost-effective route to overhauling Florida's prison system. Instead they are poised to embark on a massive prison privatization experiment that poses risks to accountability and offers savings that are more illusory than real."Prison savings illusory".
Both the House and Senate, heading into the final nine days of the legislative session, appear intent on turning over more of a core function of state government to private companies that have long been politically active in Tallahassee. ...
Florida's 15-year history with private prisons is far from reassuring. It has included lax contracts, spotty state oversight, overbilling by contractors and less legal accountability for abuses.
The growth management slide begins
"Scott signs growth management bill". More: "Legislature poised to repeal much of Florida's growth law".
Scott licking his chops
"Bill lifting limits on phone rates headed to governor".
Bill Posey has yet to comment
Update: "The questions that Barack Obama's most skeptical political rivals have raised about his birthplace and his right to be president won't die easily. Obama tried Wednesday to dispel those doubts, but if South Florida is any measuring stick, versions of the 'birther' movement will not disappear anytime soon." "Death of 'birthers?' -- Not in South Florida, where birth certificate doesn't sway all".
Florida Congressman Bill Posey, the man who sponsored the 'birther' bill apparently has yet to comment on President Obama's birth certificate. Similarly, Stephen Colbert is apparently still demanding a DNA test to determine whether Congressman Bill Posey is part alligator.
Meanwhile, "PolitiFact, the St. Petersburg Times' fact-checking website, has examined the issue of Obama's citizenship over the past three years, viewing the Certification of Live Birth, talking to Health Department officials in Hawaii, examining newspaper birth announcements, even investigating a purported Kenyan birth certificate (a hoax)."
All evidence pointed to one conclusion: Obama was born in Honolulu."With Obama's birth certificate's release, doubters believe, right?".
Every story was met with a wave of angry e-mails and new sets of theories about why the president was perpetrating one of the biggest hoaxes in American history. Were they convinced by the long-form document?
Related: "Trump nonsense hurts discourse". More from Frank Cerabino: "Shameless Trump knows how to take a bow".
Lightweights play hardball
The Tampa Tribune editors note that "earlier this month, Speaker of the House Dean Cannon saw his priority legislation — changing the formation of the Florida Supreme Court — pass his chamber by a wide margin."
But until Monday, the Senate had yet to play ball. Then, the Senate's chief budget negotiator, JD Alexander, offered a surprise strike-all amendment to another bill during a key committee hearing: The language of the amendment follows Cannon's courts bill."The speaker plays hardball".
Everyone knows what happened. In order for budget negotiations to move forward, the Senate had to take up Cannon's prize measure. The speaker is playing hardball, and everything would have stalled had Alexander not made the concession.
Nevertheless, we hope that wiser heads prevail as the bills move forward and reach the Senate floor. Restructuring the court would waste money on a foolish, unnecessary move.
"Florida's talk-radio inspired Republicans"
Scott Maxwell: "Florida politicians have already gone after the disabled, seniors, veterans and the poor."
And they weren't about to cut costs on things like their taxpayer-subsidized health-care plans — a sweetheart deal with $2-a-week premiums that's one of the most generous political plans in America."Pols with big perks shouldn't ask poor, mentally ill to sacrifice".
Nor did they want to curb the multitudes of tax breaks for high-end yachts, bottled water or sports-stadium skyboxes. After all, that would upset the powerful lobbyists.
Instead, they continue to do what they do best — target the disadvantaged.
They buffer these attacks with a warped sort of "nanny state" war cry, as if paraplegics and schizophrenics are lazy leeches who want luxuries … like wheelchairs and medication. ...
Florida's new breed of talk-radio inspired Republicans worships at the altar of goodies for Big Business and special interests and perks for themselves.
"Jeb!" embarrasses himself in Minnesota
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush lectured Minnesota lawmakers Tuesday about public education:
Republican leaders in the Minnesota House and Senate invited Bush to present his education reforms, hoping to build momentum for replicating some of the policies in Minnesota. Some leading Democrats were quick to disagree.One wonders why Minnesota would "follow Florida's lead" when - apparently unbeknownst to Florida's former (and failed) Governor - Minnesota, a public employee union powerhouse, already is a leader in public education.
"We are happy to steal great ideas," House Speak Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said after the presentation.
The main House education bill already contains a voucher program for low-income students and would create a school performance rating system similar to one in Florida. The bill's backers hope the measures can help shrink the academic achievement gap between the state's racial minorities and their wealthier peers.
Bush, who was governor of Florida from 1999-2007, said the state had improved its schools and the academic performance of its students, particularly non-whites, by enacting several reforms at the same time then making sure they were well funded.
Those included giving schools easily understood letter grades from A to F. Schools that graded out poorly were embarrassed while those that earned As got extra state money.
Third-graders who couldn't read weren't promoted to the next grade, which held back 13 percent of the class in 2002-2003. But, he said, that percentage has since dropped.
He said Florida also embraced the use of vouchers to make it easier for students, particularly the poor and those needing special education, to leave failing schools. Bush said the threat of mobile students proved to be "a catalytic converter for improving public schools."
Bush touted the benefits of the state's program for preschool, for which all 4-year-olds are eligible. He said it helped those students show up at kindergarten ready to learn.
He encouraged Minnesota to follow Florida's lead ...
Bush said that in the 1990s Florida students who tested well below the national average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a national test that allows comparison between states, now beat the national average on fourth and eighth grade reading tests. [However] Minnesota's most recent scores were among the top 10 in both grades.Jebbie continued to embarrass himself, bragging that although Florida's
high school graduation rates at the start of the decade were among the very lowest in the nation, but they are now about average at 65 percent."Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush talks education reform with Minnesota lawmakers".
That significantly trails Minnesota, where about 86 percent of students graduate, one of the highest rates in the nation, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. [Moreover,] Minnesota's average scores on the ACT are also among the nation's best, while Florida's are among the lowest. ...
"Comparing Minnesota to Florida is apples to oranges, with oranges being Florida," said Rep. Chuck Wiger, D-Maplewood. "We are not one of those southern states. We are Minnesota and we're proud to have the highest graduation rate in America."
Rep. Carlos Mariani, D-St. Paul, said Bush neglected to mention that in 2002 voters approved a constitution amendment that limits class sizes to no more than 18 students in early grades.
"The common people in the state of Florida, just like the common people here, understand that if you under-resource something you get what you pay for," he said.
Old white men at work
"House passes host of new abortion restrictions". See also "Emotional debate precedes Florida House's approval of six anti-abortion bills" and "Senate Readies Insurance, Gun Privacy and Abortion Bills for Final Vote".
They "paid too much!"
"Appliance Direct, the central Florida appliance chain whose subsidiary pays Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos $60,000 a year for consulting services, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection". "Company tied to Haridopolos is bankrupt".
"Tea parties are boiling over yet another GOP failure"
"Senate Bill 2040 must clear the Senate Budget Committee by day's end, according to the latest timetable. Still bottled up by Chairman J.D. Alexander, the heavily amended measure would require employers to use the federal E-Verify database or Real ID-compliant driver's license identification to screen new hires." "E-Verify Bill Dying a Slow Death in Senate".
Friends of Ricky lining up
"To help Gov. Rick Scott sell the state to corporations, budget writers assembling the governor's new jobs super-agency are preparing to give him broad authority to offer tax dollars to companies willing to create jobs." "Lawmakers may let Scott hand out cash to companies offering jobs".
"Every dollar withheld not a dollar actually saved."
The Tampa Trib editorial board writes that "Campaigning to trim the state budget was easy last fall because everyone knew it had to be done. But lawmakers who promised to make the sharpest cuts are finding out that not every dollar withheld will be a dollar actually saved." See what they mean here: "Budget ax cuts two ways". Related "Health and Human Services Budget Negotiations Begin" ("Negron: Finding the money to pay for one program can force cuts in another").
Not exactly a "fight"
"[A]n argument between two Democrats created the most drama, with papers flying and a pen angrily tossed into a wastebasket. The fireworks broke out when Rep. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami, quoted the Bible and said she planned to break ranks." "As abortion measures pass Florida House, fight breaks out between Democrats".
Sit-in in Haridopolos' office
"Division over proposed immigration reform ramped up in the Capitol on Wednesday as undocumented students and other immigrants staged a sit-in in Senate President Mike Haridopolos' office and national advocates pushed for a boycott of Florida." "Immigration debate ramps up as students take over Senate president's office".
Ricky and Donald
"Scott will attend the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner on Saturday. He will be a guest of the Washington Post, according to his press office. Who else did the Post invite? Donald Trump." "Scott heading to a party in Washington".
Enough with this voting stuff ...
"A controversial elections bill steaming toward passage in the state Senate would cut the number of early voting days in half -- a proposal that sponsors call a money-saver, but critics argue could stop thousands of people from voting." "Bill would cut early voting period in Florida to 7 days".
"Grayson planning to rise from his political grave"?
Mike Thomas writes that Dan
Webster was targeted not only because he is a Republican in a swing district, but also because he is the Republican who brought down Alan Grayson, the heart and soul of the left wing, the Democrat who fights like a Republican, the man who said Dick Cheney has "blood that drips from his teeth.'' "Anger over RyanCare now overshadowing ObamaCare".
I'm not ruling out that Cheney is a vampire, but it's Grayson who looks as if he's planning to rise from his political grave.
From the perspective of the left, can you think of a better repudiation of the right than to restore Grayson to his rightful throne in Washington?
Can't you just see him on the House floor, reducing Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to voucherize Medicare to placards: "And when you turn 65, die quickly."
In large part, the Republicans deserve this.
Wingnuts compare separation of church and state to Jim Crow
"The House voted along party lines in favor of a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the state to fund religious organizations. If adopted by voters the measure would help shield private school voucher programs from potential court challenges. House Democrats are incensed when the separation of church and state is compared to Jim Crow-era segregation." "God, segregation, and vouchers".
Raw political courage
"Back-to-school sales tax holiday back in business".
Republican scoffs at idea provision would benefit his family
Republican "Rep. Erik Fresen, who sits on several education committees in the Florida House, is again raising eyebrows for his family ties to a Miami-Dade charter school company. Fresen's sister and brother-in-law run Academica, a for-profit company that manages dozens of charter schools."
Last week, Fresen slipped language into a bill that would prohibit cities from imposing stricter zoning and building restrictions on charter schools than on traditional public schools. Charter schools are publicly funded but privately run."Questions raised over lawmaker's push for charter school bill".
The provision is aimed in part at South Miami, which recently approved charter school regulations that could directly affect Academica. The company, Mayor Philip Stoddard said, may be looking to expand Somerset Academy at SoMi, where Fresen's twin sons go to school. And Academica has expressed interest in building a school in Palmetto Bay.
Fresen scoffed at the idea that he put forth the provision to benefit his family. His brother-in-law, Fernando Zulueta, runs Academica with Fresen's sister, Maggie. And Fresen is a land-use consultant for Civica, an architectural firm that has designed several Academica schools.
Charter school scam
"State lawmakers are poised to sign off on their second major piece of education legislation this session, a broad measure lifting barriers for charter schools." "Charter schools likely to expand in Florida".
"West on the hot seat"
"Video: Rep. Allen West on the Hot Seat".
"Save Our Homes property-tax break loses luster".
It really is that obviously bad
Even the grandson of Fulgencio Batista, "Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero [appointed by Jebbie has tried] to persuade Republican senators to reject a House proposal to expand and split the Supreme Court into criminal and civil divisions. The overhaul of the court is a top priority for House Speaker Dean Cannon". "Former justice urges against court revamp". See also "Bill proposing expansion of court moves to Senate's third-reading calendar".