"Roads people have been afraid to go down before"
"Florida Republicans are on pace to dismantle regulations, cut jobs and adopt significant changes to Medicaid and abortion rights — because they have the votes. ... In the next 30 days, Florida lawmakers are poised to make it easier for insurance companies to raise rates, make it more difficult for women to receive an abortion and hand over control of prisons to private companies."
These are just a few of the proposals the Republican-led Legislature is pushing in the final weeks of their 60-day session. Others include dramatically changing the way the state handles Medicaid, state pensions, courts, growth and the environment.
"On jobs, abortion, teacher pay, Florida Republicans rule". Related: "Florida budget cuts will affect every town and tax bracket".
The proposals are detailed, sweeping, and encompass many conservative issues that legislators have resisted enacting in the past. And they are moving forward for one reason: They have the votes. With a veto-proof majority, a hard-right conservative governor, and a determination to seize the moment in a non-election year, legislative leaders have packed the agenda — and Democrats are powerless to stop them.
“You’ve got a very conservative governor, president, and speaker, so they’ve gone down some roads that people have kind of been afraid to go down before,’’ said Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton.
The governor has already signed major legislation to change the way teachers are paid and to reduce compensation for the unemployed, and the Legislature has overridden seven vetoes of former Gov. Charlie Crist.
Whatever they want in Umatilla and Yulee
The Palm Beach Post editors: "The Legislature held its annual Prayer Day last week in Tallahassee. How fitting. If you buy property insurance in Florida, you don't have a prayer."
Four bills would all but deregulate property insurance, on the premise that allowing companies to charge what they want would inspire more private companies to write more policies, thus reducing the number of people in state-owned Citizens and freeing all those upstate Floridians in places like Umatilla and Yulee from subsidizing [those] reckless South Floridians."Legislature, governor seem intent on giving property insurance industry almost every favor".
Second amendment blues
"A teenage boy was shot in the head and killed Saturday at a house across the street from a busy city park, and police were investigating whether his death was an accident or a crime." "Police: Boy dead from gunshot".
"A rodeo of phonies and pimps"
Carl Hiaasen: "I once referred to a past Legislature as a festival of whores, which in retrospect was a vile insult to the world’s oldest profession."
"The best Legislature money can buy".
Today’s lackluster assemblage in Tallahassee is possibly the worst in modern times, and cannot fairly be compared to anything except a rodeo of phonies and pimps. It’s impossible to remember a governor and lawmakers who were more virulently anti-consumer, and more slavishly submissive to big business.
The list of who’s getting screwed in the state budget battle is long and sadly familiar: the schools, college students, foster children, the poor, the elderly, the sick and the jobless. The happiest faces, of course. belong to lobbyists for corporations, insurance companies and utilities, who are getting almost everything they want.
It’s astounding that so many voters were suckered into thinking that this new generation of Republicans was going to fight for the common man instead of the fats cats and their special interests.
What a joke. The so-called leadership was plainly bought and paid for by the time their shoes hit the steps of the Capitol.
The "dread factor"
"Emergency managers are confident they could protect the public in the remote chance of an accident at Turkey Point, but the high risk and 'dread factor' of radiation raises questions about emergency plans in South Florida." "Disaster fuels debate over nuclear evacuation plans".
We don' need no stinkin' reger'lations
"Food fraud: Mislabeling of fish at restaurants may be widespread".
"In the pipeline"
The Saint Pete Times editorial board warns that "It's not over yet."
After overhauling teacher pay, evaluations and contracts, state lawmakers are just getting started on bringing major changes to education.
"On Florida school reforms, lawmakers just getting warmed up".
In the pipeline: expanding charter schools and school-voucher programs, and rewriting wide-ranging rules that could require middle school students to pass civics and give schools with poor reading-test scores automatic F grades. There's also pension reform, a looming move that would require tens of thousands of schools employees to pay a portion of their retirement.
"The audacity is breathtaking"
The Orlando Sentinel editors: "Midway through the state's annual lawmaking season, the GOP-led Legislature is moving to seize power from the governor, the courts, local government, even from the people who elected the legislators. Unfortunately, that power grab is only a piece of what sure looks like an agenda aimed at undermining or destroying institutions throughout the state — except, of course, the Legislature. ... The audacity is breathtaking, with lawmakers proposing measures that would:"
Do away with several locally governed agencies that build roads. That includes the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, which means about $250 million in toll money that you pay each year would now be controlled by Tallahassee bureaucrats.
"Tallahassee's power grab".
Give the Legislature an automatic do-over if one of its proposed constitutional amendments gets thrown off the ballot by the Florida Supreme Court. Meanwhile, that same bill would impose new regulatory burdens on citizen groups that try to change the constitution through petition.
Prohibit local governments from passing ordinances on issues ranging from guns to fertilizer, and impose a two-year moratorium on new impact fees. That's Tallahassee rule, not home rule.
Prohibit local governments from controlling their own destiny by requiring a supermajority vote to change their growth plans.
Prohibit public labor groups from collecting members' union dues through state payroll deductions, and force unions to get members' approval every year to spend their dues on political campaigns. Both moves are designed to create roadblocks for labor groups that generally support Democrats.
Strip the state's water-management districts of their ability to set tax rates, handing that authority over to — who else? — the Legislature. Another bill would require the governor's appointments to water-management district boards first go through a nominating commission stacked with legislative appointees.
"A reliable contributor to the Republican Party"
Steve Bousquet: "The Legislature's push to privatize many more prisons, its most far-reaching cost-cutting plan in years, opens a lucrative door to politically connected vendors who stand to profit."
GEO Group, the nation's second-largest private prison operator that currently runs two private prisons, including the largest private lockup, Blackwater River Correctional Facility in Milton.
"Florida prison privatization proposals open door for politically connected GEO Group".
GEO also operates five state psychiatric hospitals, including South Florida State Hospital in Pembroke Pines, which got its long-sought accreditation following GEO's takeover.
The Boca Raton company, a reliable contributor to the Republican Party, employs more than 2,000 people and a stable of 16 well-connected Capitol lobbyists. It donated $25,000 to Gov. Rick Scott's inaugural celebration in January. A top transition budget adviser to Scott, Donna Arduin, is a former trustee of a GEO real estate company, Correctional Properties Trust. The company's health care subsidiary, GEO Care, is led by Jorge Dominicis, a familiar figure in the Capitol from years of lobbying on behalf of the sugar industry.
Howard Troxler points out that, if "some of those new 'jobs' in Florida involving bilking widows, running shady auto-repair shops or hijacking people's furniture — who cares?" "When does all this 'deregulation' go too far?"
Another day at the office
"Four-acre fire contained in Daytona Beach"
"Double what state employees were paid for same work"
"Florida's privatization of child welfare services was supposed to be good for kids and taxpayers. But in the decade since the state began making private agencies responsible for the care of abused and neglected children, one cost has soared — the salaries of top employees. Child welfare executives throughout Florida are now making six-figure salaries, with some topping $200,000 — double what state employees used to be paid to do the same work." "Salaries for Florida's child care officials are out of control, lawmakers say".
More on privatization: "Sarasota County aggressively uses a purchasing process that experts say is risky and should be used sparingly because it is susceptible to fraud and overpayment. Nearly half of Sarasota County's contracts last year came through piggybacking, a bidding shortcut in which contracts are not put out to bid, but rather are approved by a handful of county officials." "Sarasota piggyback contracts ripe for abuse?"
"MLK's last actions were in defense of union rights"
Leonard Pitts Jr. reminds us that, "Once upon a long time ago, a tired man faced an audience of public workers."
They were on a wildcat strike, demanding the right to collectively bargain and to have the city for which they worked automatically deduct union dues from their paychecks. The city’s conservative mayor had flatly refused these demands.
"Remembering MLK and the rights of labor".
“You are doing many things here in this struggle,” the tired man assured them. “You are demanding that this city will respect the dignity of labor.” Too often, he said, folks looked down on people like them, people who did menial or unglamorous work. But he encouraged them not to bemoan their humble state. “All labor has dignity,” he said.
On Monday, it will be 43 years since that man was shot from ambush and killed in Memphis, Tenn. Martin Luther King’s last public actions were in defense of labor and union rights.
Thomas washes Saint Marco's feet
Mike Thomas washes Marco Rubio's feet yet again, arguing that "we need more docs in Walmart and more Solantic clinics in strip malls." "Rubio is right to push for cuts to senior programs".
"Republicans doing this in the name of 'de-regulation'"
Scott Maxwell: "Florida's Long Term Care Ombudsman program — [is] a largely volunteer effort that looks after and sticks up for the neglected, forgotten and even abused elderly."
The goal is noble. And yet this program is under assault from Gov. Rick Scott and state legislators.
"We must keep nursing-home watchdogs".
They want to weaken the program, make it harder for volunteers to access the records and to eliminate the need for yearly site visits.
Some of those pushing these bills, mostly Republicans, are trying to do this in the name of "de-regulation."
And that almost sounds good … until you think about what that actually means.
Because what we're talking about regulating is the way human beings are treated.
We're talking about rules that say frail and elderly residents shouldn't be left to wallow in their own waste. Or among bed bugs. Or left in rooms with call buttons that don't work.
Rules that say infections should be quickly contained and that patients shouldn't be subjected to verbal abuse or left lying on the floor for hours after a fall.
We're talking about regulations that are meant to give men and women dignity.
You can't even make a straight-faced argument that gutting this program would save money — because it's probably the most cost-effective program Florida runs.
"It's been going on for a long time"
Randy Schultz: "You know that it's been going on for a long time. Now, though, people are getting caught. For all the justified attention to the corruption cases of three former Palm Beach County commissioners, most government business is done at lower levels." "New wrench for the drip, drip, drip of public corruption".