"After secret talks and public acrimony, the Florida Legislature's Republican leaders announced they reached a budget deal Tuesday, sparing them the embarrassment of an overtime lawmaking session." "GOP leaders agree on budget". See also "As budget talks start, initial outline closer to House's smaller $66.5 billion plan", "Finally: Florida House, Senate Ready to Conference on Budget, Other Matters" and "House, Senate Reach Agreement on Allocations for Budget".
Today in Tally
"Now that they know how much money they've got to work with, House and Senate leaders today begin hammering out the spending details on everything from health care to schools to prisons."
The so-called conference committees are scheduled to start meeting today."Today in Tallahassee: Budget negotiations get under way". See also "Make or Break Time for Bills as Session Winds Down" and "As Florida House focuses on abortion, guns and religion, Democrats ask: Where are the jobs?".
Meanwhile, the full Senate catches up to the House on several hot-button issues, taking on abortion and guns.
Teabaggers run, hide
The apparently Neutered former tough guy (at least around unarmed POWs), Congressman Allen West can't handle his constituents: West actually insists that the questions he gets at town hall meetings be screened. Yesterday, protesters objected
to West's requirement that questioners submit written questions on cards, a change from his previous practice of allowing questioners to line up at microphones. "Protesters interrupt Rep. Allen West's town hall | Video". See also "Angry crowd at town-hall meeting could be the norm for Dan Webster | Video, Photos". More: "West, like Republicans at home district meetings nationwide, draws hecklers on Medicare".
The protesters were escorted out by a Fort Lauderdale police sergeant to cheers — and epithets — from the crowd.
Later, when West was discussing the Republican position on Medicare, he was interrupted by Nicole Sandler of Coral Springs, who was a host on the now-defunct liberal Air America radio network.
When she didn't heed calls to stop talking — "shut up, lady" one person yelled — she was removed by police as people recorded the scene with camera phones. Sandler continued to object as she was led out, argued with the officer, and was arrested for trespassing.
Democrats plan to go after West again Wednesday at a Palm Beach County town hall. On Thursday, their target is U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta.
"Senate President Mike Haridopolos said in an interview broadcast Tuesday that new oil drilling is needed in the Gulf of Mexico, a reversal from last year, when, in the wake of the BP spill, he said Florida was going to 'turn the page' away from drilling." "Haridopolos flips stance on gulf drilling". See also "Haridopolos: New Gulf Drilling Needed".
Head in the sand
"Haridopolos: New Gulf Drilling Needed".
I know I read somewhere - help me please Mark Wilson - that if labor is in short supply. wages increase. "Labor shortage hits farms as picking season comes to a close".
That's a lot of T-shirt sales
"Orlando pushes ahead of Miami in economic growth".
Will "wealthy self-funder jumping in" against Nelson?
"Something peculiar is going on with the Republican Party, nationally and in Florida. After a phenomenally successful 2010, Republicans can't seem to find any giant-killers to take on Barack Obama or Bill Nelson."
[T]he field challenging Democratic Sen. Nelson — George LeMieux, Mike Haridopolos and Adam Hasner — is sufficiently weak that activists continue to speculate about a wealthy self-funder jumping in, just as Rick Scott shocked the establishment by beating gubernatorial front-runner Bill McCollum in 2010."In Florida and nationally, Republicans can't find any giant-killers for 2012 races". Related: "George LeMieux, Adam Hasner Spar in Teleconferences".
Unconstitutional publicity stunt
"The Health Care Freedom Act, which has been sailing through the Senate, would send a proposed constitutional amendment to Florida voters, allowing them to opt out of the individual mandate imposed by the federal law. If 60 percent of the voters approve, the act would become law. During the committee meeting, Republicans insisted the main issue is freedom." "House Committee Backs Measure Letting Floridians Opt Out of Obama Health-Care Law".
Judge "blasts Florida's lack of protection for 'River of Grass'"
"A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take over Everglades permitting, while blasting Florida's lack of protection for the famed 'River of Grass.' U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold said the state's historic inaction raises concerns, as do Gov. Rick Scott's more recent decisions on related environmental issues."
Gold cited the governor's decision last week to ask the federal agency to rescind its recent statewide water quality rules and his decision in January to suspend state rulemaking. The governor also ordered the South Florida Water Management District and the state's other four districts to reduce their budgets from property tax revenue by 25 percent."Judge: Let EPA enforce cleanup rules" and "U.S. judge blasts state on Everglades restoration; says 'situation sliding backwards'".
"Simply stated, the entire situation is rapidly sliding backwards," Gold said in his 76-page omnibus order.
The judge ordered the EPA to review Florida Department of Environmental Protection draft permits and take actions necessary to comply with the federal Clean Water Act.
"Governor Scott is disappointed in today’s ruling by Judge Gold, which shifts Everglades restoration permitting authority from the state to the federal government bureaucracy," said Amy Graham, the governor's traveling press secretary.
Gold also directed DEP to halt its use of delaying tactics to avoid complying with a 2006 order to clean up discharges from stormwater treatment areas. The judge said promises had been made and not kept since 1993 when the EPA, DEP and the South Florida Water Management District said it was time to bring the litigation to a close.
"Scott wants lawmakers to create a bill that would sharply cut the amount of business that state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. could write, but he denied reports Monday of pushing for closure of the overexposed, underfunded insurer." "Gov. Scott denies plans to phase out Citizens Property Insurance Corp.".
Florida bar hangs in there
"The Florida Bar will retain its power to nominate members of judicial nominating commissions thanks to a late-filed amendment. Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, filed a handwritten amendment during the Senate Rules Committee that restored the Bar's influence of nominees to those commissions after protest from some senators and lawyers this week." "Bill keeps Bar in judge nominations".
Why are banks in the union busting business?
"The Fort Lauderdale Fraternal Order of Police will close its accounts with Bank of America, union President Jack Lokeinsky said Tuesday, citing the bank's political contributions and membership in the Florida Chamber of Commerce, a business group that has pushed for the [voluntary union dues] deduction ban." "Lauderdale police union cuts ties with Bank of America".
Second amendment stoopid
"State House approves bill on doctors' gun talk".
The Saint Pete Times editors: "In a shortsighted move that would inevitably affect Florida’s public safety individually and collectively, the state Senate proposed dramatic funding cuts to mental health and substance abuse treatment for adults. But senators still have a chance to get it right." "A matter of money, morality".
Wingnuts adopt random drug testing of welfare recipients
"Welfare applicants would have to pay for drug tests but they'd get reimbursed if they pass under a bill that cleared the Florida House on Tuesday. The chamber passed the bill (HB 353) on a largely party line 78-38 vote, with most Republicans in favor and Democrats against. The legislation is one of Republican Gov. Rick Scott's priorities. GOP lawmakers argued that it's only fair for those seeking temporary assistance to be drug tested because many taxpayers also get tested at their workplaces"
"When folks are receiving assistance on your dime and my dime and they're using the money to go smoke doobies or get doped up or take crack then that demonstrates to me that they don't want to help themselves," said Rep. Brad Drake."Fla. House passes welfare drug testing requirement".
"So why should we spend taxpayer dollars on helping folks who don't want to help themselves?" the Eucheeanna Republican said.
Opponents including St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes cited a 2002 federal appeal court ruling that struck down a similar program in Michigan. The court ruled that random or universal testing of welfare recipients violates their privacy rights if there's no suspicion they are using drugs.
"The way McDonald's lists the prices of hamburgers"
Beth Kassab: "A proposal to require doctors to post their prices in the waiting room the way McDonald's lists the prices of hamburgers on a menu board is sailing through the Legislature. More transparency is needed when it comes to prices at the doctor's office." "Push for doctors to list prices falls short".