"A bill slammed by election watchdogs as a 'preposterous' assault on voters' rights was positioned late Wednesday for full House approval this afternoon. ... while the primary date provision has garnered much attention, it is the rest of the bill that critics assailed on Wednesday. The bill makes a slew of changes to state voting laws, such as:"
•Cutting in half from four years to two years the time allowed for gathering petition signatures to add constitutional amendment proposals to the state ballot;"House to take final vote on elections bill criticized by Democrats, watchdogs". See also "Election bills seen as GOP power play".
•Halting the practice of allowing voters to report a name change or address change at the polls on election day, forcing them instead to use a provisional ballot if they have moved from one county to another or changed their name but had not updated their registration;
•Requiring third-party voter registration organizations, such as the League of Women Voters, to submit the forms they collect within two days instead of 10, as required now;
•Banning lawyers from approaching any voter waiting in line to give legal or voting advice.
All hell could break loose
"Unions representing Central Florida teachers, firefighters, police and other government workers are pulling an estimated $10 million from five banks affiliated with the Florida Chamber of Commerce, blaming them for an attack on public employees."
The unions are also asking their members — an estimated 20,000 people — to withdrawal their personal money from Bank of America, PNC Bank, Regions Bank, SunTrust and Wachovia. And labor leaders across the state could follow in the coming weeks, union officials say."Unions pulling money from banks backing Florida Chamber". If other central Florida public employee unions, and, more importantly, the private sector labor organizations get behind their public employee brethren, all hell could break loose. The Chamber of Commerce is doing something organized labor has been unable to do itself: wake up Florida's slumbering unionized - and wanna be unionized - public and private sector workers.
"Sen. J.D. Alexander says he gave the House a 'fair and balanced' proposal but that they refused to accept it. Alexander says that he still thinks legislators can resume budget negotiations and finish the session on time. Lawmakers must have a finished budget on their desks by May 3 in order to adjourn within 60 days." "Senate and House break off high-level budget talks".
"It seems lawmakers working to cut $4 billion from the state budget aren't immune from adding a few items that are near and dear to their hearts — including a dredging project at the Port of Miami, above, a grant to aid in the prosecution of Casey Anthony and orange juice at welcome centers."
In the Senate, the chairman of the general-government budget committee, Eustis Republican Alan Hays, said he didn't know who wrote the language calling for $240,000 worth of orange juice for Florida welcome centers."Pork still on the menu".
"It's not on my radar," he said.
The House budget has a $250,000 line item that calls on the nonprofit American Bikers Aiming Toward Education of Florida to help with motorcycle safety awareness. That was news to ABATE president James "Doc" Reichenbach, who pointed out the group conducted motorcycle safety awareness last year.
"Orlando hotels filled about eight of every 10 rooms in March, a rare feat that hasn't happened in three years." "Orlando hotels fill 80 percent of rooms in March, best since 2008".
Today in Tally
"Today in Tallahassee: Lawmakers wrap up a short week".
"Legislators wrap up an abbreviated week Thursday as House committees consider creating a Save Our Homes-style assessment cap for businesses and weigh a proposal to lift requirements that local dog tracks actually race dogs."
HJR 381 would ask voters to amend the state constitution to set a three percent limit on property value increases for most non-homesteaded property. Currently, the state has capped assessment increases at 10 percent."House reviews property tax cap for businesses". Yesterday: "Florida House takes up elections, growth, redistricting".
Proponents argue the cap will help spur job growth, while opponents note that it will create inequities in the property tax system that will benefit more established businesses.
Another bill, HB 1145, would allow greyhound tracks to stop running dog races. Track owners currently are required to run a set number of races in order to offer poker, which has been a more lucrative game for the business.
"Scott's curious decision"
The Saint Pete Times editors think Governor "Scott has made a curious decision not to join a multistate lawsuit against Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig that exploded last year in the Gulf of Mexico. Scott has pinned Florida's compensation on the novel legal strategy that the companies behind America's worst environmental disaster can be counted on voluntarily to make things right."
Now that Scott has turned to the honor system to plead with these polluters to pay, he needs to lay out his strategy: What process will the state use to determine its economic damages? What expectations does Florida have in return for refusing to join the multistate lawsuit? And who is the governor listening to since he doesn't listen to the state's former special counsel on the spill, Tampa attorney Steve Yerrid?"Going it alone on oil spill". This from the Palm Beach Post's editors: "Drill harder on BP damages: Florida's federal lawmakers have a better approach than newcomer governor".
Scott and Bondi have concluded that Florida will be better off fending for itself against multinational companies responsible for this catastrophe. If they are wrong, the real losers will be Floridians who have suffered enough.
Yesterday from the Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Drilling off Florida: It's not worth it". The Miami Herald editors: "Few lessons learned from spill". Related: "A year after oil spill, environmentalists fear drilling still on the horizon" and "One Year After BP Oil Spill, Florida Gulf Coast Reflects".
The end of growth management
"The Florida House is poised to take up legislation today that could essentially undo Florida's 25-year-old growth-management laws, following Gov. Rick Scott's mantra that stripping away regulations that govern development will spark the state's sluggish economy and generate jobs." "Bills would change state environmental regulations, focus". See also "Sweeping growth management bill withstands Democratic amendments in House".
"Tea party groups assailed a West Palm Beach tea party group, alleging it is a front for GOP issues and is not representative of all tea party activists."
"Trouble is brewing among Florida's tea parties. A West Palm Beach group called Tea Party in Action is being criticized by other tea party groups who allege the organization is a front for the Republican Party of Florida and a hired gun for special interest groups in Tallahassee. The group's executive director, Marianne Moran, dismisses the allegations."
The issue came to a head last week when Moran testified before a Senate committee on behalf of a bill to ban unions from using payroll deduction to collect dues."Tea party members at odds with West Palm Beach-based group".
"What does this bill have to do with tea party principle of limited government?'' asked Henry Kelley, president of the Fort Walton Beach Tea Party, in a letter to senators. "I can't see why a Legislature focused on limited government in a right-to-work state wants to tell union people what to do with their paychecks.''
"A huge mistake and a terrible distraction"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Some lawmakers in Tallahassee apparently believe that the way to appease the state’s most strident voices on immigration is to adopt an Arizona-style bill, opening the door to a divisive, unneeded and emotionally-charged debate. It’s a huge mistake and a terrible distraction for lawmakers, who should focus on finding solutions for the very real economic problems facing Florida. There is no convincing evidence that the state needs this legislation or that most voters want it. As so often happens with this topic, the politics of immigration threatens to overwhelm common sense." "Tallahassee’s harsh immigration bills flunk common-sense test".
Rubio burning both ends of the Libyan candle
The Palm Beach Post editors: "U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., voted to shut down the government and says he won't support raising the debt limit unless it comes with the whole GOP agenda. Yet he wants the United States, already warring in Iraq and Afghanistan, to get deeper into Libya's civil war. But even if spending weren't an issue, the U.S. should be wary of mission creep."
Sen. Rubio has been coy about whether he would support the use of U.S. troops into Libya, claiming that it would be poor military strategy to signal what the nation would do. His office did not respond to a request for clarification. But he asked Senate leaders to put U.S. involvement in Libya to a vote. He wants the United States to make ousting Moammar Gadhafi an explicit goal. President Obama and leaders of Britain and France have said they want the Libyan dictator to leave, but regime change is not a stated goal of the United Nations/NATO operation in Libya."Rubio's impossible mission: He wants to aid rebels only if they will be 'our' rebels.".
Bidness caught runnin' gub'ment like a bid'ness
"Agency yanks controversial campaign; state launches another investigation". "Workforce Central Florida Trips on Its Cape".
From the "values" crowd
"Museums and other cultural institutions face a historic cut in funding as Florida lawmakers struggle to agree on a budget of between $66.5 billion and $70 billion.Faced with competing needs, the Legislature steadily has been taking away money for the arts and culture. State funding for museums has dropped from $13.2 million five years ago to as low as $1 million in this upcoming year's House proposed version of the budget." "State's museums expect big hit in upcoming budget".
Dems "overtly giddy" about redistricting
"House Speaker-designate Will Weatherford sounded an early bipartisan tone Wednesday as the committee he chairs began the inherently political work of re-drawing Florida's political maps."
Under the "Fair Districts" amendments voters approved last fall, lawmakers will be tasked with drawing the boundaries without the intent of helping or hurting political parties or incumbent politicians."Redistricting process begins under new rules".
That means evidence of individual members trying to scope out what their future district might look like — or making suggestions on how to draw the lines — could be used to show that the law was being violated.
Democrats have been overtly giddy that the 2012 round of redistricting would undo the Republicans' legislative super-majorities and 19-6 edge in Congress, given that Democrats hold a roughly 800,000-voter advantage over Republicans in Florida.
"Brownfields" tax credits
"Bill would help address a $10-million backlog in the state 'brownfields' tax credit program, supporters say. They say the program creates thousands of jobs but participation by landowners and developers is threatened by the backlog. The push for the tax credit has come despite the state's $3.75 billion budget shortfall." "Tough budget year hasn't stopped push to increase tax credits for contamination cleanup".
Only "moderate gouging"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "The 'good' news is that the Legislature may let property insurers gouge policyholders only moderately."
According to Sam Miller, director of the Florida Insurance Council, two of the four property insurance bills "are dead." One would have deregulated prices. The other basically would have prevented customers from suing if they believed that an insurer did not act in their interests. That leaves the comprehensive rewrite (SB 408 and HB 803) and this year's attempt to shrink state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. (SB 1714 and HB 1243)."Dump flawed policy: Two bills cling to notion that there is a 'free-market' insurance solution for Florida". Mike Thomas: "Reform Citizens insurance? Once more, with feeling".
Since the storm years of 2004 and 2005, the fight over Citizens has been geography-driven. The "last-resort" insurer has become the state's largest, with 1.3 million policies. To legislators from inland central and northern Florida, Citizens is a wasteful subsidy for coastal South Floridians. Ironically, roughly half of Citizens policyholders live outside Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, but 60 percent of Citizens policies in "high-risk" are in South Florida.
So the bills seek to force South Floridians out of Citizens.
"Mandates were once a hotly debated issue in the Florida Legislature. During the time Gov. Jeb Bush was in office, the Legislature rebuked most health insurance mandates. But in the following years since then, the Legislature has been more receptive to requiring additional coverage. Indeed, one of the bills that is moving through the current session is SB 546, which the insurance industry calls a mandate." "Will health insurers and HMOs participate in mandate-free health care marketplace?".
Prescription drug mess
"The prescription drug crisis is a problem Tallahassee wants to solve, but how to do it remains a subject of debate." "Lawmakers to tackle prescription drug abuse crisis".
Obama's in town
"Obama, family attending shuttle launch next week".
RPOFers want to stifle Teabag competition
"A little-noticed provision of the state Legislature's controversial elections bill would make it extremely difficult for a new political party to put a candidate on the state presidential ballot – a provision some say is aimed at keeping a tea party candidate off the ballot."
The Florida Tea Party ran candidates for several offices in 2010, including Dunmire for the congressional seat won by Republican Dan Webster, and former Polk County Commissioner Randy Wilkinson for the seat won by Republican Dennis Ross of Lakeland."Bill could exclude tea party from presidential ballot".
Republicans feared the candidates would siphon off GOP voters, and some alleged that the party was part a plot by Democrats – an accusation vehemently rejected by Dunmire.
Private colleges avoid review
"A state office responsible for keeping tabs on vocational, technical and other small private colleges across the state has come under fire in a new state audit." "Auditors slam program that is supposed to keep tabs on private colleges".
Tourism industry leaders get what they paid for
"For 15 years, Visit Florida, a public/private marketing partnership, has been successfully luring tourists from around the world to visit the beaches, parks, attractions, hotels and restaurants of the Sunshine State. But under massive government reorganization bills championed by Gov. Rick Scott and introduced recently in the House and Senate, Visit Florida – now led by a board of 53 diverse tourism industry leaders – is in jeopardy of losing its autonomy and being gobbled into a goliath economic-development bureaucracy." "Keep tourism promotion out of state hands, says industry".
RPOFers want to end ban on taxpayer money funding religious institutions
"A section of the Florida Constitution that bans taxpayer money from funding religious institutions could be deleted if state lawmakers who view it as discriminatory "against all people of faith" have their way."
A bill in both the House and Senate would ask Florida voters to erase a 39-word sentence from Florida's state constitution that's been the law since 1885. Known as the "no aid" provision or "Blaine amendment," it states that "no revenue of the state" can be given "directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.""Bill asks voters to OK taxpayer funding of religious institutions".
The sentence, like similar language in nearly 40 other state constitutions, is a stricter prohibition against the financial mixing of church and state than is found in the U.S. Constitution. ...
Similar attempts to remove the same sentence have failed in the past few years. This year's proposed resolution (HJR 1471 and SJR 1218) may not fare any better. It needs a three fifths vote of approval from both the House and Senate to go on the November ballot, where 60 percent of voters must give it the nod.
Election law a-go-go
"After three hours of debate late into Wednesday night, the House tentatively approved a massive elections bill pushed by ruling Republicans but fiercely opposed by Democrats." "GOP ready to rewrite elections law".
Scott's got his finger in the wind
"The rapid succession of shifts from Scott come after a poll two weeks ago that showed the more Floridians learn about the new governor, the less they like." "Can Florida Gov. Rick Scott's policy shifts soften his public image?".
The best they can do?
"Two 'tea party stars' from Florida say they're not scared by the doomsday scenarios over the national debt ceiling." "Tea Party 'Stars' Stand Strong in Debt Showdown".
Republican living the lie
"More than 170 days since Republican Rep. Frank Artiles was elected, he still hasn't moved to the west Miami-Dade district he represents in the Florida House — a potential constitutional violation that could cost him five months' pay. Artiles was caught living in his Palmetto Bay home Monday night when a Miami political blogger knocked on the door. ... no one has filed a formal complaint against Artiles with the Florida House. At least not yet."
Artiles had a taste of controversy earlier this session when he appeared on the CNN show Anderson Cooper 360 to defend a bill that banned doctors from asking prospective patients about gun ownership. Artiles misrepresented the scope of the ban, and Cooper called him out the following night on his show — where Artiles didn't appear."Miami lawmaker caught living outside his district, says he'll move soon".
"As for why he was so adamantly inaccurate about it last night," Cooper said of Artiles, "we'll let you be the judge of that."
If only Jeb! ...
A polling firm associated with Republican consultants released a poll Tuesday that shows former Gov. Jeb Bush routing President Barack Obama in Florida in a potential, but very unlikely, 2012 presidential match-up. Unlike the pack of Republican hopefuls, the poll finds that Bush clearly takes Florida off the table, securing it for the Republicans. ... Of the 807 likely voters surveyed, 363 were Republicans, 324 were Democrats and 106 were independents. Bush secured the backing of 89 percent of the Republicans surveyed while 7 percent backed Obama -- but the former governor was also able to tap into Obama’s base, taking 26 percent of the Democrats polled while the president kept 71 percent in his column. Bush led with independents, taking 46 percent to the president’s 40 percent." "If Jeb Bush Were Running, Presidential Poll Says He Could Take Obama in Florida" ("The poll of 807 likely voters was taken April 13 and 14 and had a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent. Find the full crosstabs at Viewpoint Florida.")
Peter Schorsch has a little fun with this Republican polling operation's alleged results:
You have to be out of your frekin’ mind if you think 26% of Democrats in Florida would vote for Jeb Bush. Out of your frekin’ mind! I am not saying Jeb wouldn’t beat Obama in Florida, but winning a quarter of the Democratic vote would not be part of the arithemetic."How ridiculous is the Viewpoint Poll showing Jeb beating Obama by 19%?"
Again, you have to be out of your frekin’ mind if you think Florida Democrats, bludgeoned by the current GOP onslaught against teachers, unions and reproductive rights, would roll over and cast a vote for Jeb!
Of course, this poll was commissioned by uber Republican strategist Randy Nielsen and was conducted on April 13th – 14th among 807 Florida registered voters likely to vote in the 2012 General Election. They say the margin of error is +/- 3.5%, but I think the entire poll falls within the margin of error.
Out of your frekin’ mind.
Poor John Galt
Kenric Ward whines that the "Mainstream Media Shrug Off 'Atlas' at Their Peril".
The public's disinterest in the film is understandable. After all, the film is a "comically tasteless and flavorless adaptation of Ayn Rand’s bombastic magnum opus [that] delivers her simplistic nostrums with smug self-satisfaction."
"In response to Gov. Rick Scott's insistence upon more control and consistency in Florida's water policies, the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection has named a water czar to oversee the budgets, rules, regulations, permitting, lobbying and land deals made by the state's five water management districts." "Fla. environmental agency appoints water czar to oversee state's 5 water districts".