"A sweeping rewrite of election laws, crafted in part by House Speaker Dean Cannon's office, surfaced Friday and drew strong opposition from election supervisors, unions, grass roots advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers."
Democrats asked why such a sweeping piece of legislation was being rushed."Major Florida House elections bill emerges before committee vote". See also "Sweeping elections-law overhaul clears committee".
"This is an extreme makeover," said Rep. Dwayne Taylor, D-Daytona Beach, "and getting it just last night, I haven't been able to digest all that's in it."
The bill's most controversial provision would wipe out a 40-year tradition in Florida that allows voters who have recently moved to update their voting address at the polls when they vote. The bill would require those voters to cast provisional ballots instead.
Baxley defended the change as needed to prevent fraud, such as the same voter voting twice.
Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho called it "disturbing" and "appalling" to threaten the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of voters solely because they moved.
LeMieux to announce
"George LeMieux is set to enter the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, a possibly contentious contest in which the winner will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. The Buzz is LeMieux will make the announcement next week." "Republican George LeMieux ready for U.S. Senate race".
They'll "sit and sneer at each other"
"The House and Senate next week will vote out their 2011-12 budget plans: $66.5 billion and $69.8 billion, respectively."
But this is no abstract game. The outcome has real-world consequences affecting each Floridian. By session's end, lawmakers will decide how many state workers are laid off, how much schools are cut, how much money state attorneys will receive, whether transplant patients go without medication or if there's more state oversight of the taxing powers of state water-management districts. ..."Let the budget battle begin". See also "Senate Moves $69.8 Billion Budget".
How will it get done? The master of the game, Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander — crafting his third budget in 14 years — won't say. He smiles when asked the question: "We'll sit and sneer at each other."
Another one bites the dust
"WMFE selling its Orlando TV station".
Well ... he is good at pleading the fifth
Aaron Deslatte: "Cynics might say Gov. Rick Scott is pushing tort reform because he's getting dragged to the courthouse so often." "Gov. Rick Scott is also Defendant Scott".
Most states forbid Scott's "share shuffle"
"If you have a $62 million investment, representing the biggest single chunk of your $218 million in wealth, and you put it in a trust under your wife's name, does that mean you're no longer involved in the company?"
Florida Gov. Rick Scott says it does."Most states, as well as the federal government, forbid the kind of share shuffle Scott used."
Scott has aggressively pursued policies like testing state workers and welfare recipients for drugs, switching Medicaid patients to private HMOs and shrinking public health clinics. All these changes could benefit that $62 million investment, but Scott sees no legal conflict between his public role and private investments.
And, experts say, under Florida law he is correct.
But in Florida, nothing bars Scott from promoting policies that could benefit a company from which his family benefits financially."Is Solantic a conflict?".
• Scott supports bills that would move nearly 3 million Medicaid recipients into private managed care plans. Solantic accepts traditional Medicaid at only one location but it contracts chainwide with several private Medicaid plans. If passed, the law would dramatically increase Solantic's potential patient base.
Would the company seek contracts with new Medicaid HMOs? "We don't have enough information at this time," said chief executive Karen Bowling.
• Scott favors legislation that would require all adult welfare recipients — about 58,000 people — to have drug tests at their own expense. About 100,000 more would be affected by his plan to do random drug screenings of all state employees at a maximum cost of $3.5 million to the state. Bowling said Solantic would not bid on that job as long as Scott's shares remain in the trust.
"We don't have centers in Tallahassee and don't have plans to open one," she said. "I would think most of the state volume would be there."
• Scott's budget slashes funding to public health departments, which handle checkups, immunizations and travel shots for many people who don't have private physicians. Solantic, which charges $50 for a basic physical and recently started catering to international travelers, could pick up some of this business.
Bowling said physicals and shots are a very small percent of Solantic's revenues; more than half its business is nights, weekends and holidays when most other providers (including health departments) are closed.
• Scott appoints the heads of the Agency for Health Care Administration and Department of Health, which license, inspect and investigate complaints against providers such as Solantic. Herron, the ethics lawyer, said it's legal.
"An avalanche of boos" for Scott at Rays game
"The booing began in earnest well before the game even got under way. But it had nothing to do with the Tampa Bay Rays. ... It had everything to do with who was throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to kick off the Rays' season – Gov. Rick Scott."
Scott, wearing a No. 45 Rays jersey to mark that he's the 45th governor of the state, took to the mound amid an avalanche of boos and just a smattering of applause. ..."Boo-birds at Rays opener for Gov. Scott". See also "Gov. Rick Scott hears chorus of boos at Rays opener".
Hours before the game began, about 100 sign-toting protesters gathered outside the stadium, urging those arriving to unleash their boos on the governor.
They carried signs that said things like "Hey Rick, pick on someone in your own tax bracket" and "Trade Rick Scott to the Yankees."
Ironically, Scott also was booed at a New York Yankees spring training game at Legends Field recently.
More from the "values" crowd
"A proposal that would permanently divert at least $194 million annually in real estate-related taxes from Florida's affordable housing program to general state spending won approval Friday from the Senate Budget Committee."
The panel also voted to slash health care spending for transplant recipients and other "medically needy" patients with catastrophic illness but who lack sufficient insurance coverage."Fla. Senate panel diverts low-cost housing funds". Related: "Gov. Rick Scott orders immediate cuts to programs for disabled", "Caregivers for disabled call Scott's 15% cut 'draconian'", "Medicaid Cuts, Agency Mergers Cleared by Senate Panel" and "Social-service workers, clients rally to decry funding cuts".
Those were among several cost-cutting bills the committee approved that would conform state law to a $69.8 billion budget the panel approved Thursday for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
That sets the stage for floor action in both legislative chambers, which will be followed by negotiations to settle differences in their respective appropriations bills.
"The irony of ironies"?
Kenric Ward: "Score another victory for the Confederates. In what surely has to be the irony of ironies, yet another federal judge has sided with the Sons of Confederate Veterans in the group's ongoing battle to distribute its 'heritage' license plates." "Florida Legislature Burned by Confederate Plate".
Actually, Mr. Ward, it is hardly the "irony of ironies", but rather a poignant manifestation of the difference between the plantation system extolled by "southern conservatives", and the "liberal" federal constitutional regime so many Northerners sacrificed for.
Audubon Society gets off its derriere
"The Florida Audubon Society filed a motion in the Florida Supreme Court on Friday asking to enter a brief supporting a suit challenging the constitutionality of Gov. Rick Scott’s executive order freezing rule-making."
Specifically, the motion mentions a rule on hold intended to protect Miami’s Biscayne Bay. “This delay only exacerbates and aggravates the current degradation of Biscayne Bay’s vulnerable ecosystem and aggravates and increases the difficulty (and cost) of restoration,” say court papers."Scott’s rule-freezing order sparks legal fight".
Eric Draper, executive director of the Audubon Society, said other rules on hold are also at issue.
"Scott bent on destroying Florida's environment"
The words of the Tampa Trib editorial board: "The gist of growth management bills moving through the Legislature is simple: Let developers do as they wish and prevent citizens from doing anything about it."
This effort has nothing to with creating jobs — the state is swamped with unoccupied dwellings. But it will ensure that when growth does return, developers can do as they please without regard for the costs to taxpayers or impacts on communities.Read it all: "Growth management lunacy". A related subject from the Trib editors: "Abandoning paradise".
We have been there before. Until growth laws were adopted, developers built hither and yon across the countryside and left taxpayers with a costly backlog of needs for roads, schools and other necessities.
Yet at a time when overbuilding has lowered property values for virtually every homeowner in Florida, lawmakers would eliminate the requirement that developers demonstrate the need for the new project, weaken the rule that the necessary roads and other services be available, and virtually end state oversight, which has proved critical in ensuring local governments follow their plans. ...
Growth management may well be jettisoned in a year when lawmakers appear http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifinterested only in hearing what campaign contributors say. But Floridians will be paying the price and suffering the consequences for decades.
The Saint Pete Times editors fear "Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP-led Legislature appear bent on destroying Florida's environment and overturning decades of efforts to protect it by governors and lawmakers from both political parties. They would give developers free rein to pave over what's left, prevent local communities from cleaning up bays and rivers and enable homeowners to dump raw sewage into the drinking water supply." "The enemies of Florida's environment".
"More die in riots over Gainesville pastor's Quran-burning".
Florida's "prescription drug monkey"
The Orlando Sentinel editors: "Prying the prescription drug monkey off Florida's back is going to require more than just one approach. That means Scott ought to accept OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma's $1 million offer to set up the database. And his recent order for random drug testing for state employees suggests he has overcome his qualms about expensive governmental intrusion." "Pill-mill problem: Get on the same page".
It seemed like a fine idea at the time ...
The Saint Pete Times editors: "Motorists should not have their constitutional rights violated to use one of the state's toll roads, which is what the Florida Department of Transportation appears to have done in harassing perhaps 260,000 drivers in a fumbling attempt to detect counterfeit currency. The suspended program cost more than the illegal tender confiscated, and now the department could find itself in an even deeper financial hole as the subject of a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of detaining motorists at toll plazas and forcing them to answer personal questions." "Hefty toll to find bogus bills".
Bits and Pieces
Kevin Derby's "Political Bits and Pieces".
Tax cuts for 'ye ...
"Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs asked health-care industry leaders Friday to lobby for legislation, stalled in Tallahassee, that would expand the number of industries to which local governments could offer temporary tax breaks." "Jacobs enlists health leaders to push tax breaks".
Mike Thomas: "Rick Scott, the one-term wonder? Poll says yes".
"A coup brewing in Tallahassee"
The Sun-Sentinel editors: "There's a coup brewing in Tallahassee. Some lawmakers — still stinging after the state Supreme Court struck three of the Legislature's flawed constitutional amendments from last year's ballot — have offered an array of proposals that would take authority and independence from the judiciary." "Legislation would weaken, undermine Florida's judiicial branch".
12 years of RPOF "leadership"
"Palm Beach County homeless count includes people displaced by economic hardship".
So much for affordable housing
"The so-called State Economic Enhancement and Development (SEED) Fund would be housed in Gov. Rick Scott's Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development. It would spend money from trust funds dedicated to affordable housing, transportation projects and trade and promotion." "Bills would move trust fund money".
Rich kids only need apply
"Florida university students can expect to pay at least 15 percent more for tuition next school year — a financial burden that comes at the same time state lawmakers are considering slashing all Bright Futures scholarships by about $1,000 a year. Community college students also face an increase – possibly up to 8 percent – as the Legislature searches for ways to help colleges recoup lost revenue." "More pocketbook pain for Florida college students".
Florida Lawmakers "preparing to gut union strength"
"While political assaults on public employee unions in Wisconsin and other states have been grabbing the headlines, the workers' counterparts in Florida also have been under attack from the Republican-controlled Legislature."
Lawmakers are preparing to gut union strength, curbing their ability to collect dues through automatic paycheck deductions, forcing them to get written permission from each member before making political contributions and calling for unions that fall below a certain level of membership to be stripped of collective bargaining rights."Political pressure also bearing on Florida unions".
"Florida’s desire for its own special place in the sun"
"With Florida lawmakers feuding with the traditional early presidential voting states of Iowa and South Carolina, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida has proposed a compromise. Chairman Dave Bitner is now advocating 'moving the primary into late February, making Florida fifth on the calendar,' saying this would satisfy both the national party’s desire for an 'orderly primary calendar' and Florida’s desire for its own special place in the sun." "Florida GOP chair offers 2012 deal". Related: "S. Carolina GOP fuming over Florida early primary date".
They're jus' bedsores ...
"Lawmakers are considering a proposal to make it more difficult to sue negligent nursing homes and limit the amount of money awarded in a lawsuit. The proposal (HB 661, SB 1396) would cap non-economic damages at $250,000 in wrongful death cases involving nursing homes for the first time. It would also make it more difficult to obtain punitive damages, and prohibit naming an out-of-town owner or investor of a nursing home in a lawsuit. The measure passed the House Civil Justice Subcommittee on Friday in a party-line vote after an hour of testimony and debate. The bill drew the ire of lobby groups like the AARP and the Florida Justice Association, which represents trial lawyers." "Legal Protections for Nursing Homes Advance".
"With more than 6.8 million acres already under state and local government control, the Florida Legislature is angling to sell and buy more land. The dirt-dealing plan, buried in a Senate budget bill, directs agencies to sell off unneeded property. But it also would funnel all proceeds into the Florida Forever trust fund for the purpose of acquiring still more acreage." "Land-Recycling Scheme Buried in Budget Bill".
"The Manchurian Uterus"
"News that state Rep. Scott Randolph was scolded for saying the word 'uterus' on the House floor has prompted hundreds of people to go online, and to say the word 'uterus.' The story has prompted a series of e-protests, and the creation of a Facebook page for the Uterus. In case you missed it: Randolph's wife, Susannah, gave him the idea to use time during a House floor debate to argue that the only way she should could protect her rights as a woman was to 'incorporate her uterus,' since Republicans are fiercely antiregulation when it comes to business." "Ban on 'uterus' draws a backlash".
"Medicaid, pensions, health care"
Balancing budget on the backs of public employees
"[A]s lawmakers reach the halfway point of the 2011 session, there's no doubt that public employees will see their take-home pay drop as they help pick up some of their pension costs. The only question is how far legislators go in revamping Florida's massive retirement system in the name of saving money." "No Doubt Public Employees Will Pay to Balance Florida Budget".
"A recipe for abuse"
The Saint Pete Times editorial board: "Buss is an encouraging appointment by Gov. Rick Scott, but where Scott's corrections program goes awry is in his attempt to wring millions of dollars from the budget by shifting to private prisons and probation services. Buss also wants to privatize all prison health care programs — something with which the state has had woeful experience. Injecting a profit motive into the provision of inmate health care is a recipe for abuse. Research shows private prisons save little if any money and have a questionable track record." "Fresh ideas on prisons".
"A roomful of lobbyists waiting breathlessly"
"By a one-vote margin,12 to 11, the House Finance and Tax Committee initially voted down the legislation (HB 493), which would have ensured that online-travel companies selling hotel rooms can continue to pay sales and hotel taxes on the lower, wholesale rates they negotiate with hotels rather than the higher amount they charge consumers. The vote — which took place in front of a roomful of lobbyists waiting almost breathlessly for the final tally — would have effectively killed the legislation less than halfway through the Legislature's annual 60-day session. But committee members agreed before adjourning for the day to resurrect the bill and make it available for a re-vote at a later date, leaving it a glimmer of life." "Bill to help Expedia, other online companies with taxes is in trouble".
"On federal debt and Libya, Rubio finds his voice".
Tuff guy afraid to testify
"Attorneys for [Luis Posada Carriles] accused of lying to U.S. immigration authorities about his alleged role in deadly 1997 bombings in Cuba rested their case Friday without calling their client as a witness." "Defense rests in Cuban ex-CIA agent's perjury case".
Car dealer threatens Miam-Dade commission
"Car dealer Norman Braman tells the Miami-Dade County Commission to adopt more-stringent charter reforms." "Braman to county commission: embrace reform or else".