Published: Saturday, April 30, 2011 at 5:19AM: "When State Senator John Thrasher introduced a bill to weaken the political clout of Florida’s public employee unions, he expected that it would pass fairly easily, not least because Republicans held 28 of the Senate’s 40 seats."
But now it looks as if the bill could falter before the legislative session ends next week. Unions representing teachers, firefighters, the police and other public employees say they have persuaded nearly half of the Senate’s Republicans to oppose the bill by reminding them that in Florida, far more than in most states, organized labor has supported Republicans."Still, the unions’ success is surprising, especially since Republican lawmakers in traditionally labor-friendly states like Wisconsin and Ohio have passed far tougher antiunion legislation this year. In Florida, just one in 20 of workers in the state belongs to a union."
By some counts, 12 of the 28 Republican senators are against the latest version of Mr. Thrasher’s bill, which would require public employee unions to get each member’s permission each year before they could use that person’s dues for political purposes. Senate Democrats are unified in opposition to the bill. Republican and business leaders — noting that Florida’s state employees contribute nothing toward their pensions — have praised Mr. Thrasher’s bill because it would reduce unions’ leverage over health coverage and pensions. ..."Gary Rainey, president of the Florida Professional Firefighters, said there was not enough Senate support to pass the bill in an up-or-down vote." However,
In a sign that the bill is in trouble, Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, personally lobbied four Republican senators on Wednesday to back it, according to Mr. Diaz de la Portilla.
he feared that Republican leaders would secure passage by attaching it to another bill."In Florida, G.O.P. Help for Unions".
Expect the union busting legislation to be be tied to another bill; see for example "Growth-law repeal tied to state budget confirmation". See also "" and "".
First significant GOP straw poll in Orlando in September
"In the first leg of a political trifecta, Florida Republicans will conduct a straw poll that could determine the 2012 presidential race."
In ongoing negotiations with the national party, RPOF officials want Florida to be the first large state to hold a 2012 primary. Officials are seeking a timetable that would slot the Sunshine State immediately after scheduled dates in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina -- and ahead of Super Tuesday (March 6), when several states, including New York, are due to vote. "Florida GOP Begins to Gear Up 'P5' Presidential Poll".
Whichever way the primary calendar works out, Florida will get a jump on the presidential action when P5 convenes at the Orange County Convention Center more than four months before the Iowa caucuses.
GOP running wild in Tally
"With a Week to Go, Florida House Picks Up the Pace".
"'Bills are dying'"
"On the House floor Friday evening, Speaker Dean Cannon repeated the phrase of the day: 'Bills are dying.' House leaders were pushing members to limit their questions on a slew of pending proposals slated to be taken up by the end of the night — or risk not making it through this legislative session, which ends next Friday." "Cannon: 'Bills are dying'".
Republicans fight against Fair Districts
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Will state Republicans ever give up their fight against Fair Districts, the constitutional amendments voters overwhelmingly passed in November that could end the incumbent protection program known as gerrymandering?"
We wish we could say yes."Top ombudsman volunteer — and outspoken critic — fired from state council".
Scott locks up Teabagger vote
"Scott's unpopularity worries some in GOP, but not him".
"Dems ostracizing one of their own"
"House Democrats are ostracizing one of their own, Miami Rep. Daphne Campbell, after she backed a Republican abortion bill and quoted the Bible on the floor of the Florida House." "Anti-abortion stance lands Florida Democrat in the liberal doghouse".
"The Florida House has voted to scale back environmental regulations to make it easier for developers and business to get permits for new projects. The bill (HB 911) zipped through the chamber on a 95-16 vote Friday night. It now goes to the Senate where similar legislation (SB 1404) is mired in committee with only a week left in the legislative session." "Bill scaling back environmental regulations passes in Florida House".
Race to the bottom
Them librul editors on the Palm Beach Post editorial board don't like that FRS drop program, and want it dropped entirely: "Why not just drop DROP?" After all, they don't have it, so why should anyone else, especially newspaper company employees.
House employs trick to destroy growth management
The Chamber hacks that comprise the Florida House of Representatives are employing a legislative trick because they can't destroy growth management as standalone bill: "House strategy means end of local-growth oversight because Legislature must pass budget". "Growth-law repeal tied to state budget confirmation". See also "Controversial Florida growth management bill wedged into budget to force passage" ("A major overhaul of state growth management laws is tacked onto a budget bill by House and Senate leaders, giving lawmakers an up or down choice.")
Without the dogs
"Contentious Senate Vote Allows Cardrooms to Run Without Dog Racing". See also "Dogless race tracks may keep card games". The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Dog tracks without dogs coming around the bend".
Healthy FRS gutted in budget deal
"The end game on the state budget drew closer late Friday, as Senate Budget Chairman J.D. Alexander and House Appropriations Chairwoman Denise Grimsley met after a day of deal-making on the spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1."
The brief meeting between Alexander and Grimsley highlighted the progress made on a variety of issues throughout the day, though some -- such as plan to graft a growth-management overhaul onto a conforming bill --- proved more controversial than others, like an agreement on how to reduce retirement costs for state employees."Budget Chairs Meet After Day of Deal-Making".
"Outside of the health and human services issues to work through, most of the conferences did a nice job of closing most of the gaps," Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said after meeting with Grimsley, R-Sebring.
After failing to meet until late Friday, House and Senate negotiators quickly struck a deal on the state retirement system.
Under the plan, all state employees would contribute 3 percent of their incomes toward their own pension; the Deferred Retirement Option Program early retirement program would remain open, but the interest rate would be dramatically reduced; and cost-of-living adjustments for current employees would be frozen for five years after the Senate proposed doing away with them altogether.
The proposal would also raise the retirement age for state workers, but would not force new employees to join a 401(k)-style defined-contribution plan.
Cannon's political ploy yanked from the calendar
"Strong resistance from Senate Republicans to House Speaker Cannon's Supreme Court plan has the fate of Cannon's pet proposal in danger. Sens. Dockery and Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, both say they have more than enough votes to keep HJR 7111 from passing in the chamber. The only thing that could save it is an amendment from Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, that removes the split-court provision of the bill. Cannon wants to expand the court from seven to 10 justices and create two five-justice divisions, one for criminal and one for civil cases. The bill was scheduled for a vote Friday but was yanked from the calendar." "Supreme Court plan in peril".
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "House Speaker Dean Cannon’s purely political play to split the Florida Supreme Court in half continues to be a solution in search of a problem. At least five Republican senators — and possibly more — have courageously refused to back Cannon’s thinly veiled retribution against the court." "Call for courage on court plan".
Bill Maxwell thinks "Arizona's law
doesn't fit Florida". The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Critics are right: Do nothing". Related: "Florida Republicans split on immigration bill".
"Measures likely to discourage Dem voters"
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "The Legislature stands accused of 'an assault on all voters' by pushing through election bills that opponents say will dampen voter registration efforts and make it harder for voters to cast a ballot."
That may be an exaggeration, but there is no doubt that the huge Republican majority in the Legislature is ramming through measures likely to discourage Democratic voters."Bare-knuckle election politics".
More significantly, the changes are unnecessary.
The Republicans claim their efforts are meant to prevent voter fraud, streamline the process and save money, but there is no evidence these "reforms" are needed. The Democrats, who have no power to stand in the GOP's way, contend the Republicans are relying on "an imaginary problem" to make it more difficult for voters to register and cast a ballot on Election Day.
The election law changes, Democrats say with some justification, are all about the 2012 presidential campaign.
"If the Senate had its way, commercial interior designers, athletes' agents and telemarketers would continue to need state licenses to practice. But the House isn't willing to cave on those parts of HB 5005, its professional deregulation bill. At least not now." "Florida House won't budge on professions it wants to deregulate".
"Voting a class-stratified phenomenon"
Aaron Deslatte observes that "Voting remains largely a class-stratified phenomenon across the United States."
It has long been understood that the act of casting a ballot comes with a certain degree of economic sacrifice. Put simply, voting costs time."Does early voting raise turnout?".
And voters behave to a degree like consumers: In this cost-benefit analysis, would-be voters will be more inclined to make the time investment in an election when their expected return on the investment outweighs the cost of casting a ballot.
Policymakers expected that by making access to the polls more convenient to underrepresented groups such as minorities and the poor, the cost — defined as time consumed and distance required to travel — would decrease and participation would increase.
States such as Texas, which put early-voting sites in convenience stores, have had more success with early voting than Florida, which restricts early-voting sites to places such as government offices and libraries.
In Florida, it hasn't increased overall turnout. Since 1956, Florida presidential elections have averaged 74.6 percent turnout. In Obama's banner Florida win, turnout was 75 percent. But early voting has physically made it easier for court supervisors to deal with larger overall numbers of voters as the state's population has grown.
That's why Secretary of State Kurt Browning, a former Pasco County elections supervisor, has helped to work a compromise that would shrink the early-voting window to eight days — but allow the polls to stay open 12 hours a day instead of eight hours.
"The Senate followed the House's lead and voted to renew a law that keeps out of the public eye certain State Board of Administration records involving the growing number of private investments." "Senate passes SBA bill".
"An ethics complaint was filed against a Miami lawmaker over his connection to a charter schools company." "Ethics complaint filed against State Rep. Fresen".
College for rich kids
"College tuition will rise again next year, while money for Bright Futures will be decreased under a House and Senate deal." "College tuition to rise, Bright Futures to drop".
"Sounds like something from the Nixon administration"
The Saint Petersburg Times editors believe that "Gov. Rick Scott fails to grasp the importance of openness, and his administration's hostility to public records threatens to further erode public confidence in his leadership."
The latest example of efforts by Scott's aides to circumvent public records laws are revealed in an e-mail by the governor's top adviser, Mary Anne Carter. ..."Secrecy clouds Scott administration".
Carter's aversion to open government should not be surprising, because Scott says he never uses e-mail in order to avoid creating public records.
Even more insulting is the defense of conducting the public's business in secret by Scott's communication director, Brian Burgess: "There are things we don't want to broadcast to our opponents." That sounds like something from the Nixon administration. Exactly who are the governor's opponents? ...
Carter and Burgess joined Scott's administration after working for his campaign and for Conservatives for Patients Rights, Scott's political committee that fought President Barack Obama's health care reform. Now they are public employees conducting public business, not partisan operatives fighting political enemies.